NEW GLOUCESTER — Members of a town-appointed committee learned Monday that their request for $250 for posters to advertise public forums for town candidates may not be allowed.

Town Manager Carrie Castonguay said she sought a legal opinion from the Maine Municipal Association and money for political purposes is an open question.

Board of Selectmen Chairman Steve Libby, the liaison for the Candidates/Referendum Issues Committee, said, “The town should stay out of politics. It’s not the town’s job to educate the public on the candidates.”

Selectman Joe Davis argued that the candidate forums were a good idea to give the community information and provides education to the public.

If there is a memo from MMA on the issue, committee Chairwoman Joanne Cole said it hasn’t been shared with the four-member panel.

“We have been completely blindsided by this meeting,” Cole said.
“We have been left completely in the dark. What problem do you see if we are volunteers and keep our status quo.

“The town depends on volunteers,” she said. “We are willing to be volunteers. Do not use money to disband this committee. The committee was formed by selectmen. This is a modest budget request and if the committee is disbanded because of the money request, we will withdraw the request.”

For more than a decade, candidate forums have been recorded for the public by the local cable TV station run by volunteers.

Libby questioned using the town cable TV equipment to record the meetings. The equipment is paid for though funds to the town from cable TV subscribers.

Castonguay said, ”All committees have staff members assigned to them for checks and balances.

Cole said by phone after the meeting that Libby has been the liaison but has never met with them, though he and Castonguay were directed by selectmen to meet with the group this winter.

Davis’ motion to table the issue for clarificatoin from MMA on the cable TV equipment and allow the committee’s input was approved.

“I don’t want this committee to disappear,” Davis said. “I want proper information on how to keep the committee going,”

The board said Castonguay may seek an opinion from the town attorney, if she thinks it’s necessary.

filed under: