LEWISTON — Councilors will select their own appointees to a citizen committee tasked to review city administrator resumes, despite Mayor Larry Gilbert’s objections.

Councilors voted to create a committee to sort through resumes, selecting five viable candidates for the city’s top job. Councilors will select the Lewiston’s next city administrator from that group.

Each councilor and Gilbert will get to select one person each for that committee. The council’s eight selections will meet with representatives from the Androscoggin Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council, Central Maine Medical Center and the Lewiston School department.

But Gilbert complained that the council’s decision was a clear attempt to get around charter requirements. The charter lets the City Council create ad-hoc, advisory committees but only the mayor can make appointments.

“I can look up the definition of words like ‘ad-hoc’ and ‘advisory’, and this fits that definition,” Gilbert said. “What we have here is an advisory group.”

Councilors got around that charter requirement by giving the committee real power. Instead of advising councilors which candidate to hire, the committee will make real decisions, choosing five candidates for council selection.

It’s enough of a distinction to satisfy the charter, according to City Attorney Martin Eisenstein.

“This is structured in a way that the committee will be making real decisions,” Eisenstein said. “They are not appointing a city administrator, but they will be making real decisions and will have real power. It is different than an advisory group.”

Gilbert disagreed, and called the council’s decision an abortion of the charter.

According to a resolution adopted Thursday, councilors can choose candidates that the committee overlooked. Gilbert said that proved that the committee was an advisory group in nature, but Eisenstein compared it to a district court decision. The court does have real power, but can be overruled on appeal, he said.

Councilors narrowly agreed, adopting the resolution by a 4-3 vote. Councilors Robert Reed, Denis Theriault and Larry Poulin voted against the measure.

“In my opinion, this is an advisory committee,” Poulin said.

Theriault complained it was unethical. He accused Councilor Tom Peters, who drafted the resolution, of trying to circumvent the City Charter and said he was considering filing a complaint with the Maine State Bar Association.

“The specific intent of this is to get around the charter, and I think that’s clear,” he said. “I certainly see this as some sort of an ethical violation, but maybe I’ll just let the bar association decide.”

Councilor Reed had proposed not creating a committee and having councilors decide themselves.

But Councilor Betty Dube said the committee is a necessity. Councilors and the mayor don’t trust each other and the public seems to agree. It’s important to bring in voices from outside of the council.

“The problem is not a problem with the charter,” Dube said. “The problem is with us, with the council and with trust. The problem is that there is no trust right now, and we need to rebuild it.”

Councilors gave the committee until Oct. 15 to come up with their five job candidates. Councilors are scheduled to give Human Resources Director Denis Jean the names of their appointees by Friday afternoon.

As of Thursday, the city had received 41 resumes from potential replacements. Candidates run the gamut from high school graduates to those with law degrees.

Councilors also agreed to keep candidates identities confidential, at least until there are three top candidates.

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