LEWISTON — City councilors interviewed the top two city administrator candidates over three hours Wednesday night.

Councilors hosted councilors-elect John Butler, Ron Jean, Mark Cayer and Stephen Morgan as they interviewed first Bangor City Manager Ed Barrett and later Acting Lewiston City Administrator Phil Nadeau.

Both men are hoping to replace Jim Bennett, fired by councilors in July.

The Sun Journal attempted to object to the secretive nature of Wednesday’s meeting and the inclusion of non-sworn city officials, but councilors cut off objections before they could be made.

Reading from an opinion written by attorney Daniel Stockford of the Brann and Isaacson law firm, City Council President Tom Peters said the Freedom of Access Act does not restrict which individuals can be allowed in closed-door executive sessions.

Judith Meyer, managing editor/days at the Sun Journal and vice president of the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition, disagreed. Maine’s FOAA is specific to public bodies or agencies, and the unsworn councilors-elect attending Wednesday’s closed-door meeting were not officially part of any board, commission, agency or authority defined under FOAA.

“Their inclusion in the meeting was inappropriate,” Meyer said. “It’s a disappointing move by the Lewiston City Council to stand off against Maine’s public access law, which is — by legislative intent — written to be liberally interpreted in favor of public access. That didn’t happen here.”

Councilors went behind closed doors just after 6:15 p.m., first without councilors-elect to discuss a personnel matter. They returned minutes later to invite Barrett and the councilors-elect into their executive session.

Barrett emerged from his interview an hour later. Nadeau arrived and went behind closed doors for his interview at 7:50 p.m. That meeting lasted until 9:40 p.m., and councilors adjourned for the evening.

They said they did not plan to interview two other candidates on their short list, former Falmouth Town Manager Doug Harris and former Gardiner City Manager Jeffrey Kobrock.

“I can’t say anything officially, but I think we’re down to two people here,” Council President Peters said. “Unless something changes here tonight, I think that’s how things stand.”

Councilors are hoping to hire a replacement before the end of the month.

Nadeau has a long history with the city, working as assistant administrator since 1999 and serving three times as acting
administrator, from April to November 2000, from November 2001 to March
2002 and from July this year to now.

Bangor’s Barrett has been in his post since 1988, assuming the job after leaving Wichita Falls, Texas. 

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