The January closure of DaVinci’s Eatery at 150 Mill St. in Lewiston has prompted City Hall to reevaluate its role in inspecting restaurants. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — The City Council on Tuesday will vote on whether the city will no longer provide local restaurant inspections, and could eliminate the sanitation inspector position held by Louis Lachance.

If the council votes in favor of the city no longer doing inspections, the state will provide them. Councilors would then vote to eliminate the sanitation inspector position, as Lewiston would “no longer need that credentialed position at a local level,” according to a City Council memo.

The proposals come after the city placed Code Enforcement Director Dave Hediger on immediate administrative leave Wednesday, and appear to be continued fallout from the recent temporary closure of DaVinci’s Eatery.

A Sun Journal article Thursday about the city’s action on Hediger sparked immediate response from code enforcement staff, who took to social media to defend Hediger and the department’s actions related to the restaurant’s closure.

A council memo on the proposal posted Friday says Lewiston is one of only three municipalities that conduct inspections at a local level, and that since the state controls the regulations for food service establishments and inspections, “the state should provide these inspections and bear the full cost of doing so.”

The change would take effect 30 days following the city’s notice of termination to the state. Lachance’s position is covered by the Maine Service Employees Association collective bargaining agreement, which means the city must “follow the requirements and timing of the contract language as it applies to this action,” the memo states.


If the council eliminates the sanitarian position, it doesn’t necessarily mean Lachance will leave the department. According to the bargaining agreement, an employee with seniority can “bump” into another job in the event of a layoff or reduction in workforce size.

The city has not provided any other information on the decision to move on from Hediger, citing it is a personnel issue. However, staff who work in the department said Thursday that Hediger is a “scapegoat” and that it has created a “textbook hostile work environment.”

“The past two days feel surreal,” Nick Richard, a building inspector, wrote in a Facebook post Thursday. “The message being received is that if I do my job and do it well I might no longer have a job. Imagine going to work with that feeling.”

Ben Westman, a former Lewiston code enforcement officer, said in a post in the popular Lewiston Rocks Facebook page that the city often gives preferential treatment to certain businesses.

“They will continue to lose knowledgeable, hardworking people with integrity because when the right person calls and complains, the city of Lewiston folds every time,” he said.

Lachance called Hediger the “hardest working employee at the city,” and added, “Choosing politics and perception over codes, rules and regulations will be their downfall.”


The city, and specifically the code enforcement department, received criticism from DaVinci’s Eatery co-owner Craig Tribuno last week following the restaurant’s temporary closure due to a cockroach reportedly seen in the kitchen, which Tribuno said cost the restaurant at least $80,000.

When discussing DaVinci’s reopening to the Sun Journal, Tribuno questioned the city’s handling of the situation, and said he sought reassurance from Lewiston that such a situation would not happen again.

It wasn’t the first time a restaurant has cited difficulty with Lewiston code enforcement.

In his post Thursday, Richard said the city is “only a middle man” in carrying out restaurant inspections with respect to state food safety codes.

“Had the sanitarian not done his job, the state would have stepped in and done it themselves in addition to reprimanding the sanitarian,” he said.

All the code enforcement employees prefaced their posts by stating their views “do not reflect the views of the city of Lewiston.”

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