WINTHROP — Town Councilor Barbara Alexander said Monday that Winthrop’s emergency management officials should publish face mask-related complaints made against local businesses.

Some of Alexander’s fellow councilors said they were not sold on the idea, but Town Council Chairperson Sarah Fuller said the town’s Emergency Management Agency will discuss the proposal at its meeting next week.

Fuller said Tuesday’s conversation will have “a lot of moving parts,” such as the implications of posting a list.

Alexander said Wednesday she did not have a particular set of plans for the list, aside from making complaint information publicly available.

She mentioned a list of complaints and enforcement actions could be included in the Town Council’s agenda documents, thus making it public information.

Alexander said other ideas for the list, such as another location where the list appears, had not been discussed.

“You’re asking a lot of details that were never brought up in the meeting,” she said. “That was never the subject of my proposal because we haven’t gotten there yet.

“You could do a weekly list that would show the complaints and the actions taken for each complaint. It’s not a huge database type of report.”

At Monday’s meeting, Alexander said the list would help urge businesses to ramp up enforcement by making more people aware of complaints.

She said there were numerous ways to compile a list, but having a running record of complaints and enforcement action could keep residents informed of the effectiveness of their grievances against local businesses.

Alexander made the suggestion during discussion of the emergency management team’s activities. She recommended the Town Council publish — or include in its minutes — a list of businesses about which complaints have been made and what happened as a result of the comnplaints.

“That’s public information, in my opinion,” Alexander said. “I think we ought to list the businesses for which complaints have been made.”

The complaints are those made to the town’s emergency management team, not the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

DHHS spokesperson Jackie Farwell said one complaint has resulted in enforcement action in Winthrop. She said the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention’s Health Inspection Program issued that warning Sept. 23 to Pond Town Pub for alleged violations, which included staff members reportedly not wearing face coverings.

Farwell said the pub’s owner agreed to comply with the state’s face-covering mandates.

The exact number of complaints to Winthrop’s emergency management team was not available Wednesday.

Fuller said Tuesday the average number of complaints each week has been trending downward over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of those complaints have been referred to the state, Fuller said, while others have required no action.

Alexander’s request Monday was met with pushback from Town Councilor Andy Wess, who said he saw putting out a list as “unfriendly to the businesses.”

Wess said putting businesses on a list might be unfair because some complaints might have been made about issues or behaviors owners had not observed.

“The business can’t always control what citizens do,” he said. “The store owner never had an opportunity to address the issue and his name goes on a list.”

Alexander said Tuesday complaints like those Wess mentioned should still be logged, including if a business manager or owner was unaware of the alleged issue.

“If you have a lot of complaints, there’s something wrong,” she said. “You need to take steps to resolve the complaints.”

Fuller said Tuesday she was not sure forcing compliance by shaming was the most productive method. She said the Winthrop Hannaford receives complaints, but this does not mean the supermarket seeks to disobey mandates or laws.

“There might be some scofflaws. I’m pretty sure Hannaford isn’t trying to disobey the law on purpose,” Fuller said. “These businesses aren’t in the business of having trained bouncers, like a bar would.”

Alexander said there is no centralized list for this information, and Town Councilor Linda Caprara said she “took pause” at publishing complaints when some might not require action.

Caprara said publishing a list to shame people might set a wrong precedent.

“I’m uneasy because we’ve never done anything like that before,” she said. “I don’t want to be antibusiness, because there’s potentially complaints out there that may or may not be justified.”

Alexander said she has experience in consumer protection, and in those situations, customer complaints are monitored, recorded and made public.

She said information about mask-wearing complaints would be helpful to publish on a weekly or monthly basis, along with any outcomes or enforcement actions.

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