BETHEL — Less than a year after taking the job, Town Manager Natalie Andrews submitted a letter of resignation Tuesday morning, citing a lack of cohesive support from the Select Board.

The letter was presented to Chairwoman Meryl Kelly following a “chaotic” Monday night board workshop.

Bethel Town Manager Natalie Andrews watches the Summerfest parade June 21 from the Bethel Town Office. Andrews resigned her position on Tuesday, citing board of selectmen dysfunction. Rose Lincoln/Bethel Citizen file

“In a hostile work environment if you are the town manager you can’t lead,” Andrews said. “If there is someone going completely off the rails … the board needs to bring that conversation back and not have it be about a personal vendetta. They seem to struggle with this. They (should) control the behavior of people at the meeting. I don’t know what more I can do.”

Kelly agreed the board needed to work better together to support of Andrews.

The board initially planned to meet Monday night to set codes of conduct, policy and procedure. But at a prior board meeting that Kelly missed due to illness, Vice Chairwoman Michele Cole, Sarah Southam, Frank Del Duca and Pat McCartney voted to change the topic to wastewater treatment rates.

Scott Cole, former town manager and husband of Michele, was in the audience at Monday’s workshop at the request of Kelly and Andrews and was asked to explain the history of the wastewater rates.


In an Aug. 4 email accepting the invitation to the workshop, Cole told Andrews that he was not “interested in being marginalized by any of the sitting selectmen. Or by idiotic former selectmen and municipal employees who may be sitting in the audience. If I attend, I’ll have full say on par (with) board members.”

He also said the lack of discussion about wastewater rates has “been going on for years and, as a result, the sewer system is costing me, my neighbors, and a few hundred other villagers more than it should each quarter.”

But, according to Andrews, during the two-hour meeting only about 10 minutes were taken to discuss rates.

Instead, it became “so chaotic,” Kelly said. “We were just letting him talk, when we should have just shut him down.”

Cole denied that, saying most of the meeting was about the rates, but that he and the board did talk about how the town views the current board and that discussion got loud and was heated.

Kelly said she was still not feeling well during the meeting and checked out for part of it, but “I definitely heard when he told Pat to ‘just quit and retire.'”


Asked about this specific comment, Cole confirmed he said that. He said he’s tired of listening to McCartney complain about the mood of the townspeople in recent times, and how critical residents are of selectmen.

“She didn’t think the criticism was fair,” Cole said, and he said he suggested “if you don’t like the criticism you can resign. In fact, I think that might be a good idea, and I gestured toward the door.”

Cole said McCartney asked him to repeat himself, “and I did,” he said.

“She’s a public official,” Cole said of McCartney. “But people aren’t allowed to criticize her? That’s ridiculous. That’s what these codes of conduct are for,” to govern boards and board behavior.

Kelly said McCartney did a good job of responding to Cole’s criticisms and defending the board, saying both sides needed to be respectful. “Her and Scott got into it and it was pretty wild. He was interjecting through the whole meeting.

“The meeting was not a meeting. Nothing got resolved at all,” Kelly said. People were getting riled up and upset, feelings were getting hurt, everyone was talking over each other and accusations were made, she said.


“A thousand percent I should have taken control of the meeting. This is entirely why, when I pitched the workshops, I wanted code of conduct and policy and procedures first,” Kelly said.

Andrews said Cole told her at the meeting that she was passing the buck on a list of suspended wastewater accounts from 2015. “I told him, ‘you can’t pass the buck if you’ve never had the buck.’ He was just going after everyone in the office. Even people who don’t work there anymore.”

Andrews said her dissatisfaction is not about one individual, “it should be the board not allowing any individual to behave like that.”

Asked if she might reconsider her decision, Andrews said she would not. “I have been asking myself, ‘can this board be fixed?’ I don’t think the board wants to be fixed.”

She will stay on in her role for at least five weeks and possibly longer to help with the transition.

Andrews said she does not blame Kelly.


The board is struggling to see itself as a group versus individuals, she said.

“They need to establish rules of what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable and they need to enforce those rules. At the very least they should have stuck up for Pat (McCartney),” she said.

Asked if this was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Andrews, Kelly said, “one hundred percent this was the straw. It’s hard, she’s trying to do her job and she’s getting (Freedom Of Access Act) requests. I had people in our community come to me and say that Scott Cole told them that Natalie was a liar and a criminal. When someone is inciting this distrust for someone, it kind of sabotages the whole thing.”

Asked if he said that about Andrews, Cole said he did.

In March, he said, when Andrews proposed a revised pay scale for town employees she had the town clerk making more than herself. When the board asked her about that, she said she was committed to the salary contained in the three-year contract she’d signed.

Then, Cole said, in June the board held an executive session with Andrews and when they emerged they voted to increase her salary. “That makes her a liar,” he said. She said one thing at the March meeting and “then they go behind closed doors and jimmy up the deal later. Unless she’s giving all her increase to charity, then she’s a liar.”


During her year as town manager, Andrews equalized pay for town employees and worked to increase staff morale. She directed the demolition of the Ethel Bisbee School. Andrews hired a new Wastewater Treatment Plant superintendent, created a succession plan and successfully worked with the state to push back a construction project related to the wastewater treatment plant.  She had Bethel Regional Airport land deeded to the state so the town could qualify for Federal Aviation Administration grants.

Andrews took over as town manager on Sept. 12, 2022, and resigned as chairwoman of the Maine School Administrative District 17 board chairman Jan. 18 citing time constraints of her new job. Representing West Paris, she finished her term on the board in March.

“I am sorry for the town of Bethel, because we had a really capable town manager who was so willing to learn and so willing to do whatever it took,” Kelly said. “She was so committed to her employees. It’s a big loss for the community. As select board chair, that this happened under my watch, I give myself a little grace for being sick, (but) I still let it happen and I let it happen too many times.”

Cole said he’s had it with town officials who can’t follow open meetings laws, and said the board’s hostility toward him is personal, as was the board’s decision twice not to appoint him to serve on the Bethel Regional Airport Board, even though there were no other qualified candidates vying for the position.

He dismissed any suggestion that Andrews’ decision to leave town administration had anything to do with him, and said he won’t stop holding municipal officials accountable when he knows he’s right.

Executive Editor Judith Meyer contributed to this report.

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