Robert McCarthy

I started my tenure as a Lewiston City Councilor 14 months ago. Almost from the beginning I, and other councilors, have been constantly attacked by Mayor Carl Sheline, his proxy Councilor Scott Harriman and others in print and social media.

As a politician, you have to develop a thick skin and have a turn-the-other-cheek attitude to keep your sanity. I have refrained from answering the baseless charges and continued to serve the citizens of Lewiston. After reading two opinion pieces in the Sun Journal last weekend, I can no longer sit idly by and not respond.

First, I will address the baseless accusations of Councilor Harriman.

He talks about the importance of transparency and following council rules. After repeated public attacks on some councilors by the mayor and other elected officials, it was agreed by all that we would refrain from such public attacks.

Unfortunately, after the continuation of attacks on a widely-followed Facebook page Harriman administers, along with another guest column in the paper (“Transparency still needed to maintain public’s faith in government,” March 5), it’s safe to say that agreement has been trampled on.

The four councilors in Harriman’s sights attempted to collaborate with the mayor on a Planning Board appointment last year. The mayor refused to consider our points of view and instead chose to create a stalemate situation that ultimately led to the council making the appointment.


Fast forward to the council meeting of Feb. 21, when action was taken to censure Mayor Sheline for continually ignoring the city charter and council rules.

This item was not on the agenda because we were not made aware of the depth and seriousness of the issues until after the agenda had been set for the meeting.

Given these circumstances, Councilor Rick LaChapelle precisely followed Robert’s Rules of Order governing the procedure for censure. According to the rules, a censure vote has to be done under new business, the rules need to be suspended, no witnesses can offer testimony and a majority of the council must vote in the affirmative.

That is exactly how it played out.

Next up is Harriman’s assertion that we tried to silence the mayor. Nothing could be further from the truth.

As a 48-year-long newspaper employee, I place great value in everyone’s First Amendment rights. Every council member, including the mayor, has ideas and adds value to the discussions. All we were seeking was for the mayor to follow council rules, plain and simple.


After uncounted violations and numerous discussions, the mayor and City Council reaffirmed our commitment to strictly follow council rules. The mayor’s adherence to our signed agreement lasted exactly one week.

Now to address the mayor’s transgressions with the letter and to rebut Councilor Harriman’s and Elliott Epstein’s assertions that the mayor did nothing wrong (“What problem is the City Council solving by censuring the mayor?,” March 5).

There were three areas where the mayor broke protocol.

The first was that the mayor subverted the city administrator’s authority and went directly to city staff to draft his letter. This has been an ongoing problem since day one and the subject of many discussions.

Second, the mayor had the letter drafted on city letterhead. He does not have the authority to compose any letter representing the city without prior approval by majority vote of the council.

Last, but not least, in the letter the mayor was committing city resources to cooperate with a Portland nonprofit. This would involve the Portland organization contracting with local landlords to rent to General Assistance-dependent individuals. Not only would this commit the city to support the renters after 30 days, more importantly, it would take apartment opportunities away from Lewiston residents.


Many Lewiston residents are struggling to find apartments during the current housing crisis without bringing in competition from outside the community.

Councilor Harriman and Mr. Epstein assert that this should not be held against the mayor as the letter was never sent. The only reason it was not sent was because the council got wind of it and requested to review it before being sent.

Censure was not our first choice by a long shot. In response to the mayor’s continued disregard for the authority of the city administrator, repeated attempts to unilaterally commit city resources and general refusal to follow rules, we were left with no choice but to voice our disapproval.

Given the diverse views within city governance, it is all the more imperative that we respect and uphold the rules, protocols and procedures we all swore under oath to abide by in order to effectively work together on behalf of a city we all love and want the best for.

All of these unnecessary distractions would disappear if one simple thing could happen. Mayor Carl Sheline needs to follow council rules and the city charter, period. Problem solved.

Robert McCarthy serves on the Lewiston City Council. He is employed by Sun Media Group.

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