LEWISTON — Mayor Shane Bouchard resigned Friday morning.

The resignation came days after a woman unexpectedly announced at a City Council meeting that she had given Bouchard internal emails from his opponent during the 2017 mayoral campaign, in a covert effort to boost Bouchard’s chances of winning.

Heather Everly Berube this week also released more than 150 texts between her and Bouchard, including one in which he told a racist joke and one in which he seemed to compare a meeting with his fellow Republicans to a Ku Klux Klan gathering.

His resignation came less than a day after Lewiston police and the Maine Attorney General’s Office launched an investigation into his involvement with alleged criminal activity.

In a hastily called news conference, Bouchard said he’s “received an overwhelming amount of support from friends, family and colleagues” and they have encouraged him to “stand and fight.”

“I intend to do just that,” he said. “But I cannot do that effectively from the mayor’s seat. It is not fair to the people of Lewiston.”

Bouchard, owner of Maine Home Recreation and Bouchard Lawn Care, represented Ward 4 for three years on the Lewiston City Council before running for mayor in 2017. He won a run-off election against Democrat Ben Chin.

Bouchard would have been up for re-election in November.

During the news conference, Bouchard blamed the media for reporting Berube’s claims.

“Several allegations have arisen in the last few days, some of them very personal,” he said. “It has become clear to me that the media does not acknowledge personal space and reports on nothing more than rumor in many cases. In this political climate where the media does not discriminate between facts and rumors, it is hard to be a public figure.”

Bouchard has admitted that he got Chin’s internal emails from Berube, though he’s denied that he sent those emails on to Jason Savage, owner and operator of the Maine Examiner, the website that published excerpts from the emails and ultimately upended Chin’s campaign a week before the election.

Bouchard has also admitted he texted the racist joke and comment about the local GOP “clan” meeting.

During the news conference Friday, Bouchard said that he is “not a perfect person.”

“I have made many mistakes in my past,” he said. “I have also in the past been the victim of some very damaging rumors.”

As he left the news conference, Bouchard hugged or clasped hands with a number of people. One man shook his hand and said, “Talk about your bombshell, Shane. That’s not what I expected. That’s not what I came here for.”

Asked for her reaction to Bouchard’s resignation, Berube said in an email, “There is no stand-up resignation without accountability.”

Under Lewiston’s city charter, the council president becomes mayor if the mayor resigns with less than a year left in the term. That is Democrat Kristen Cloutier.

At the news conference, Cloutier acknowledged that “this week has been a tough one for Lewiston as a series of unfortunate circumstances have occurred.” But, she said, Lewiston “is a resilient community … and we will come through this with perseverance and vision for the future.”

“I assure you that I will do my best to represent the city of Lewiston and its residents to the best of my abilities, as I always have,” said Cloutier, who is also a state representative.

She thanked Bouchard for his service to the community and offered her best wishes to him and his family.

Cloutier said Friday the council didn’t ask Bouchard to resign.

However, others apparently did.

Minutes before the news conference, City Councilor Zack Pettengill made a statement over Facebook Live in which he said he “spoke with fellow Lewiston Republicans last night, who are as troubled as I am with Mr. Bouchard’s behavior, and had discussed formally asking him to resign. To which he refused.”

It was unclear why Bouchard changed his mind between Thursday night and Friday morning.

Pettengill said he was distancing himself from Bouchard, adding that “Bouchard’s) brand of politics is not how we move Lewiston forward.”

City Councilor Alicia Rea, a Democrat, issued a statement shortly after Bouchard’s resignation, calling this “a tumultuous week for the city.”

“The city is now able to move forward from these troubling allegations and can get back to work for the citizens of Lewiston,” she said. “I look forward to supporting interim Mayor Kristen Cloutier as she completes this term. This city deserves a mayor who will look out for its best interests and we will have that in Mayor Cloutier.”

Shortly before Bouchard’s resignation, the Lewiston GOP issued a statement saying, “In light of the recent controversy surrounding the mayor of Lewiston, the Lewiston Republican City Committee offers its prayers to the mayor, his family, the Lewiston City Council, city officials, citizens and neighbors.”

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