LEWISTON — The city will not survey restaurants and other businesses regarding their interactions with the code enforcement department, the City Council unanimously decided Tuesday.

Members of the public and former elected officials had strong words against the proposal, calling it a “witch hunt” and what amounted to an investigation unfairly targeting the code enforcement department.

Mayor Carl Sheline pitched the idea after the council received considerable public criticism in January related to its proposals to eliminate local restaurant inspections and the city sanitarian position held by Louis Lachance. Those votes were ultimately postponed following significant opposition.

Sheline argued that a third-party survey would allow officials to have more information to go on to make the decision, however many argued that the focus specifically on the code enforcement department was inappropriate and “bad optics.”

Tuesday’s council debate was the latest fallout from the recent temporary closure of DaVinci’s Eatery and the decision to part ways with Code Enforcement Director David Hediger.

Louis Lachance, center, the city’s code enforcement sanitation officer, watches Jan. 23 while a large crowd addresses the Lewiston City Council about a proposal to end local restaurant inspections and Lachance’s position. Many people spoke against the proposal. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

“To only survey related to code enforcement seems like a targeting of that department,” Council President Scott Harriman said, adding that the timing of the proposal is also an issue.


Other councilors and members of the public said it amounted to an investigation, and that the council was never consulted on the idea.

Adam Jones, president of the Maine Service Employees Association union that includes code enforcement staff, called the proposed survey “disgusting and unethical.”

“I feel like you have a mayor here who’s trying to stir up some dirt, maybe from some recent actions,” he said.

Linda Scott, who served on the previous council, said she’s been “frustrated and shocked” by the first month under the new council, and believes the “new council is being taken advantage of.”

Former Councilor Bob McCarthy said it looked like the survey results were to “provide cover for decisions that have already been made.”

Billie Jayne Cooke, owner of the Agora Grand event center at 220 Bates St., said her concern as a business isn’t code enforcement, it’s the amount of drug use and overdoses on her property.


“That’s what makes Lewiston hard to do business in,” she said, adding that the city should instead use the money toward homeless services.

Earlier in the meeting, the council approved funding for an overnight warming center at Calvary United Methodist Church on Sabattus Street.

The City Council voted unanimously against several items supported by Sheline on Tuesday, including a rule change that would have allowed the mayor to serve on the Public Art Committee and his support for the Immigrant Resource Center of Maine’s proposal to run the Calvary shelter.

On Wednesday, it was clear Sheline still believes the survey would be beneficial to improve business relations despite the near-universal opposition to it Tuesday.

“Far from a witch hunt or a predetermined outcome, a properly conducted third-party survey will provide valuable insight and data,” he said. “After the commentary last night, what business will dare come forward with concerns? Lewiston needs to be business-friendly and part of what that means is the willingness to receive both positive and negative feedback.”

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