AUBURN — Mayor Jason Levesque said Monday that he will continue to not wear a mask during City Council meetings in order to make the deliberation more clear for online viewers.

Levesque’s statement released Monday afternoon came in reaction to Gov. Janet Mills’ Nov. 5 executive order that strengthened rules on wearing face coverings in public because of a large increase in COVID-19 cases in Maine.

Levesque said all meetings will continue to be held inside the Council Chamber, with public participation available via the web and in an adjacent room at Auburn Hall. He said he would wear a mask when not “actively presiding over meetings.”

“Furthermore, in order for all residents to continue effectively watching and listening to proceedings without struggling to understand the content, debate, and outcome of the council’s actions, I will not wear a face covering while actively presiding over meetings,” he said. “This is not to be construed as a show of defiance, or noncompliance with the governor’s mandate. This decision was made after careful consideration of health risk, my interpretation of the governor’s executive order, the mandate for open government and the needs of those with certain challenges to participate, watch and listen to our deliberations in accordance with our charter.”

The statement goes on to say that “any city councilor who does not feel comfortable conducting business in (the Council Chamber) can participate remotely without penalty or judgment that would diminish their ability to represent their constituents. I remind you all to wear your mask in accordance with CDC recommendations and state and local directives.”

Only three councilors and a small number of staff have been routinely wearing masks during City Council meetings since late spring, when the council returned to in-person meetings.


Levesque said his statement Monday only applies to himself, and not the rest of the council. Levesque and city management were wearing face coverings during a special council meeting Monday, but Levesque frequently pulled down his mask while speaking.

Asked about face coverings at Auburn Hall, City Manager Phil Crowell said Monday he has “provided the appropriate response to staff on wearing masks when in Auburn Hall in accordance with the governor’s order,” and that signs are posted.

All staff members present for Monday’s meeting were wearing them. There were still two councilors who were not masked.

However, Crowell said, “the mayor presides over the council meetings and has provided his opinion of his interpretation of the order.” Crowell noted the council has the option to “vote to determine how the meeting will be conducted and override the mayor’s decision.”

Following the meeting Monday, Councilor Holly Lasagna made a motion to suspend the rules to conduct a council discussion on mask-wearing during meetings, but the motion failed 4-3.

Shortly after Mills’ executive order was announced Nov. 5, Levesque posted the news on his Facebook page, stating, “While masks work, the governor’s approach to compliance is wrong.”

Levesque said the statement is meant “to clarify and set a standard operating procedure” for City Council meetings following the governor’s order, specifically the section that “defines public settings and the mandatory wearing of face coverings.”

He said the City Council Chamber “has been, is, and will continue to be until further notice, a private meeting place where elected officials and a limited number of staff conduct work on behalf of the people of Auburn during scheduled meetings and that all other access is limited to official business.”

Auburn’s City Charter section 2.4 states, “All meetings of the City Council, other than ‘executive sessions,’ shall be open to the public as required by state statute, and the City Council shall promote effective public participation in and public notice of its meetings in the contemporary means of information sharing.”

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.