The Quoddy Tides

Eastport, Maine

2007 March 9

Turner defends Freedom of Access action

by Eileen Curry

In one of two heated exchanges during the March 5 selectmen's meeting in Perry, Chairman David Turner made a motion to release all documents requested by resident Ron Rosenfeld, who filed a lawsuit against Turner and the Town of Perry on February 26 citing a Freedom of Access denial. Turner, Dick Adams and Jeanne Guisinger voted to release all documents requested: e-mails, letters, written communications, contracts, agreements, proposals and selectmen executive sessions "with the exception of pages 6 - 9 which directly discuss negotiating goals and strategies which would give Quoddy Bay LNG an advantage in any future discussions" in regards to an agreement made with Quoddy Bay LNG, the Town of Perry and town counsel, Eaton Peabody.

Although the selectmen agreed to release the documents, disagreement erupted between Turner and Guisinger on where, when and how documents would be available to view, and whether to include a charge for each document copied. "If someone had brought this up at the last meeting," Turner said, "we would have released all this information. This is just not necessary, this suit, it is just a way to try to nullify the coming vote."

Turner said that Maine Municipal Association "declined" a request to defend him and the Town of Perry in the lawsuit and then made another motion to hire attorney Timothy Woodcock of the Eaton Peabody law firm to defend him and to use funds from the administration and surplus account to pay for it. Turner and Adams voted in favor, Guisinger against.

Turner continued by making another motion to authorize selectmen to arrange for an "available room at the [Perry] school and hire monitors to oversee the review of documents by [Ron] Rosenfeld, the attorney [John] Foster, members of the press and any other interested member of the public upon receipt of all documents from Eaton Peabody." Guisinger disagreed with the hiring of monitors. "Do we really need shadows to watch over people?" Turner maintained that "only one copy exists," and "I am not backing down on this." All of the selectmen voted in favor of the motion as presented.

Rosenfeld, who was not present at the selectmen's meeting, did submit some comments in writing, requesting that Guisinger read them. "In order to protect my access to what should have been publicly available documents, I recently filed suit against Mr. Turner and the town to compel production of these documents. Turner's response to my request did not address the documents I sought, but rather mentioned 'executive session material' and was not specific about a time for release. In Maine, the failure to respond to such a request is equivalent to a denial. I was obliged by law to bring suit within five days of receiving that denial or potentially lose my right to do so. Although not required, I contacted Mr. Turner, informing him of this and requesting clarification in the hope of avoiding this lawsuit. But there was no response to this request." Rosenfeld also denied that the lawsuit requests that the upcoming town vote be stopped. He said it "was carefully worded to avoid listing that as a possibility. The lawsuit attempts to obtain public information which may help myself and others decide how to vote, but I am not trying to prevent the vote."

In another second exchange, John Cook made a request "for equal time" in asking to present a PowerPoint presentation to Perry voters during a public hearing on March 7 regarding the Financial Framework Agreement between the Town of Perry and Quoddy Bay LNG. The question of the proposed agreement is one of three referendum questions on the March 26 ballot for the Town of Perry. Cook said he "would like to present the shortcomings on this deal," and asked selectmen several times to include his presentation along with the one by the town counsel, Erik Stumpfel, the primary presenter. "Erik Stumpfel is acting on your behalf and Quoddy Bay LNG to sell this project." At one point, a frustrated Turner said to Cook, "John, I've been so busy dealing with your lawsuits that I really don't want to listen to any of your threats or disruptions." Cook continued, "It's not my lawsuit David. I just want equal time with Erik Stumpfel."

Resident Georgie Kendall spoke out in favor of Cook's request, saying, "I think it's only fair to let a member of the community present this. I ask that you all allow this to happen." Turner answered that the "town was legally required to accept testimony from each side. We don't have the time for show and tell. We can see how much time we have, and we will allow views from both sides to speak."

The next Perry selectmen's meeting is on Monday, March 19, at 4 p.m. at the municipal building.


© 2007 The Quoddy Tides
Eastport, Maine
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.