Mechanic Falls Town Manager Zakk Maher either has already been fired or will most certainly be fired. It’s tough to really know what his status is because municipal and state rules have not been — and are not being — followed.

It’s like the Town Council views rules set forth in its own charter and in state law as irrelevant.

Not just one rule, scads of rules.

Broken rule No. 1: Following an executive session on June 17, Town Council Vice Chairman Wayne Hackett made a motion to “relieve” Maher of his duties. The council, including incoming Councilor John Emery II, whose term was not set to begin for another two weeks, voted 4-1 to approve the motion.

Under the town charter’s enumeration of powers, the council is authorized to remove the town manager but only after it issues a preliminary resolution stating the reasons for the manager’s removal 30 days before removal, to which the manager may then request a public hearing before a final resolution can be adopted.

The council didn’t do that, choosing instead to dismiss Maher by a simple majority vote.


Of course, once the error was recognized by people other than councilors, councilors scheduled a do-over meeting for June 25 where they voted to send a preliminary resolution to Maher, retroactively dating it to June 17. (Making it retroactive takes quite a liberty with the intent of the charter.)

Broken rule No. 2: At the June 17 meeting, after the vote was held to “relieve” Maher, the meeting was adjourned and the public in attendance left. Then, on video Chairwoman Cathy Fifield can be seen coming back into the room to stop remaining councilors from leaving. “We’re not done yet. We need to decide who is in charge,” she said.

Councilor Nick Konstantoulakis was called back from the parking lot and the council gathered anew, with a full quorum to carry on a second, unscheduled meeting that the public was not notified about. All this, in utter violation of Maine’s Freedom of Access Act.

Broken rule No. 3: At its meeting of June 25, at which the council was peppered with questions from angry citizens about why Maher was relieved, Fifield mentioned that councilors were bound by the confines of personnel confidentiality and that they could only discuss what their attorney had approved during an executive session the prior day.

That would have been June 24, a day when no meeting notice was posted as required by law. Even when the only business at a meeting will be in executive session, there must first be a public meeting convened to call that executive session and the public must be notified.

Broken rule No. 4: Curious about whether Mechanic Falls councilors have any real understanding of Maine’s public access laws, on Tuesday the Sun Journal made a verbal request for access to the most recent Freedom of Access Act (FOAA) training certifications for each of the councilors, proof that these elected officials had obtained public access training that is required by state law.


The Sun Journal was told, after the seriously overwhelmed interim town manager consulted the town’s attorney, that “You have the right to file a FOAA request in writing, and we have five days to respond.”

That’s not the law.

The state’s Right to Know Advisory Committee has been very clear, for many years, that requiring a written request for public documents creates a grossly unfair barrier for the state’s least educated, who may not possess the literacy skills to craft such a request.

Verbal requests must be recognized as proper FOAA requests.

The town’s attorney should know this.

The law also allows any person to “inspect any public record during reasonable office hours,” and the Sun Journal’s request was made at the office at the quite reasonable hour of 2 p.m.


The town’s attorney should know this, too.

There’s more, but the point is that in its zeal to remove Maher — for reasons not yet apparent to the public — the council disregarded its own charter and is stiff-arming Maine’s public access laws.

In the end, Maher will most certainly find an employer to welcome his skills and the mess created by the council by relieving him outside the boundaries of the charter will be addressed by Maher’s attorney.

But, will councilors take notice?

Will they recognize that the rule of law is not a bundle of suggestions, but is what defines protocol and controls authority. It’s what rules a just society.

Will they even care?

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