A Windham town councilor who is accused of being biased in a vote to eliminate the town’s dispatch service and contract with the regional dispatch center addressed the allegations Tuesday night at a public meeting.

Council chairman William Tracy is a senior business officer for Gorham Savings Bank in Windham, which has financial ties to Cumberland County’s dispatch operation, according to an e-mail sent to a town councilor.

Tracy said he has no conflict of interest but declined to comment further.

“I have every faith that the (police) chief and his guys are going to get to the bottom of it before too long,” he said during Tuesday’s meeting.

Windham police have put Sgt. Michael Denbow on paid administrative leave while they investigate his efforts to maintain the local dispatch service. Denbow is suspected of using police time and resources to check into whether Tracy should have recused himself from voting.

Denbow allegedly sent an e-mail to Councilor Carol Waig saying Tracy should have “bowed out of the vote due to a conflict of interest.”

“If the county is doing millions of dollars worth of business with Gorham Savings Bank, (and) Bill Tracy is one of the vice presidents and considered by the bank to be, ‘one of the decision makers,’ there is a definite problem with this,” the e-mail said.

Vic Labrecque, finance director for Cumberland County, said Tuesday that he has never met or spoken with Tracy. He said the only business the county has with Gorham Savings Bank are payments on a $209,000 lease for eight patrol cars.

“I don’t know who he is,” Labrecque said of Tracy. “Our relationship with Gorham Savings Bank is minimal at best.”

Denbow, who has been a police officer for 33 years, 29 of them in Windham, was put on administrative leave Thursday. Lt. David DeGruchy was assigned to handle the investigation.

Before Tuesday’s meeting, town officials questioned the origin of the e-mail, which was distributed to local newspapers and showed nothing to indicate who had written it.

DeGruchy said he believes that Denbow wrote the e-mail. Saying it’s a personnel matter, he declined to release any findings from his investigation.

He said there may be other people involved, but he would not say whether they were police officers, town officials or both.

“I’m trying to find out who knew what and when,” DeGruchy said.

At a recent public meeting, Denbow urged the council to reconsider the change of emergency dispatching. Earlier this month, Waig received the e-mail.

Tracy got the e-mail and sent it to Kenneth Cole III, an attorney with Jensen Baird who represents the town.

Cole issued a letter this month that said Denbow may have acted inappropriately.

Cole said the e-mail sent to Waig makes it appear that Denbow “conducted the investigation without probable cause,” and that “the purpose of his investigation was to disrupt a policy decision. “

“If you are a police officer and you identify yourself as one, then you have made it an official investigation and have to have probable cause to make one,” Cole said. “You can’t just be an unhappy employee investigating a policy decision made by the town council. That’s an abuse of government authority.”

 

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at: [email protected]