LEWISTON – Two councilors stormed out of chambers Thursday night in a continuation of bad feelings from the last City Council meeting.

The meeting saw Councilors Denis Theriault and Robert Reed accuse Councilor Tom Peters of holding secret meetings with other councilors, including some meetings that had council quorums.

Peters admitted to hosting meetings with as many as three other Lewiston councilors, but said the meetings stayed away from city business.

“These were not secret meetings,” Peters said. “There may have been meetings with three councilors present, but I always tried to steer the conversations away from public business.”

Thursday’s meeting was a special workshop scheduled to review budgets for the city’s assessing, human resources, planning and police departments and for inspections and government buildings.

Councilor Betty Dube began the meeting by reading a statement saying she was happy to serve as councilor for her constituents but refused to work with councilors if they insisted on attacking each other and members of the public.

Then, she left the meeting.

“I was simply not interested in hanging around any longer and getting attacked,” Dube said. “I did not think I could be productive until I felt safe to do so, so I left. Now, we’re going to have to see how all the dust settles.”

Councilor Tina Bailey also read a statement, saying she would no longer participate in meetings when councilors attacked one another. Bailey stayed for the remainder of the meeting, however.

Reached at her home after the meeting, Dube said she was also responding to complaints by constituents who felt threatened by some city councilors. In one instance, Dube said councilors warned some critics of Casella Solid Waste that they were saying too much and were close to slandering the company. Those people were so frightened that they hired attorneys, she said.

“I said it publicly, that some people have felt terrorized by councilors,” she said. “My concern was with more the way that message was delivered. It was said in such a way that people felt frightened and attacked. There is no need to be like that. People can be civil.”

The meeting continued, but with Councilors Reed, Theriault and Mayor Larry Gilbert bringing up a second topic: Peters’ household meetings.

Those meetings were an issue Tuesday night when a presentation from Auburn Mayor John Jenkins turned angry. Peters admitted Tuesday that he had met with Jenkins before the Auburn council voted to end the work of the Citizens Commission on Joint Lewiston-Auburn cooperation, but denied he influenced Jenkins or Auburn councilors.

Theriault restated his claim from Tuesday that Peters had helped engineer Auburn’s decision, saying he wanted “Auburn to take the fall” and the political heat.

Peters said that Theriault misunderstood. Peters just wanted to make sure Lewiston didn’t get blamed politically for ending the commission’s work.

That prompted Theriault to throw down his pen in anger and leave the meeting.

“I’ve been around Tom Peters long enough, and I know how he spins things,” Theriault said. “I know what he said, and I won’t change my position. This was a setup of Auburn, pure and simple, and that’s that.”

Reached by cell phone after the meeting, Theriault said he was tired of back-room dealings and dirty tricks.

“I am not putting up with lying and deception, not at all,” he said. “I will not tolerate anyone lying to the public, and if anyone wants to try, they’d better be pretty good at hiding it because I’m going to go out of my way to expose it.”

Back at the meeting, Peters argued that he had done nothing wrong by meeting with councilors individually, as well as officials from other cities.

He urged councilors to move on, and to work together more civilly.

After the meeting, Peters said he thought councilors were ready to move past the issue.

“From my point of view, it is done,” he said. “There’s no more need to point fingers any more.”

But Gilbert said he didn’t think the matter was settled.

“It’s a matter of trust, and I don’t trust him,” Gilbert said. “I think it’s unfortunate that we’re at this point, but we got here because some people are worried about having power and control and nothing else. That’s what got us here: power and control.”



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