AUGUSTA — In a surprise appearance, former Chelsea Selectwoman Carole Swan pleaded not guilty this morning in Kennebec County Superior Court to all charges pertaining to an ongoing municipal corruption probe.

Swan, 53, was indicted July 28 on four charges:
• aggravated forgery, a Class B felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine, alleging that she falsified a public record on Feb. 1;
• attempted theft, a Class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison or $5,000 in fines, alleging she authorized a $22,075 check from the Town of Chelsea to pay for a fraudulent invoice on Feb. 3; and
• two counts of improper compensation for services, alleging she solicited or accepted money in return for promoting a contract while she was a public official.

The latter two charges are class E misdemeanors, which are each punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Swan’s arraignment had been scheduled for Aug. 9, but was moved up after the court rejected a motion by her defense attorney, Leonard Sharon, of Auburn, to continue the case, according to James Mitchell, an assistant district attorney who represented the prosecution in court today.

“So instead of continuing, the court ordered the arraignment today,” Mitchell said. “Courts don’t like to delay things.”

The surprise move prevented media coverage of the arraignment. Swan’s appearance in front of Justice Donald Marden lasted five minutes, Mitchell said.

Swan’s bail conditions were left intact.

Swan is accused of accepting kickbacks from plow contractor Frank Monroe, of Whitefield. Monroe told police in February he paid Swan $3,000 and $7,000 on separate occasions in 2010, and was being asked to inflate a bill for road sand so she could receive $10,000 more in February of this year.

The Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office set up a sting in which Monroe paid Swan, and taped a transaction in which Monroe handed an unknown sum in marked bills to her. Kennebec County Sheriff Randall Liberty has said Swan was later arrested with the cash in her car.

In May, Sharon told reporters Swan’s actions were a way of conducting an investigation of her own to see if Monroe was overcharging the town.

Monroe has threatened to sue the town to retain the contract he says is rightfully his. But town attorney Stephen Langsdorf says the only valid contract for Monroe expired in 2010 — around the time he is said to have started paying Swan. Former town officials have said Monroe was banned from town work after improper billing for sand in 1999.

Liberty has also said Swan’s husband, Marshall, is being investigated over allegations he attempted to circumvent the town’s purchasing ordinance. The accusations say Marshall Swan Construction allegedly received favored treatment for town road work while Carole Swan was in office.

Her term ended June 30.

In an email sent Friday to the Kennebec Journal, Sharon said he would pursue a change of venue in defending Swan.

“We do anticipate filing motions including a motion for a change of venue based upon the prejudicial publicity generated mainly through allegations of guilt  made by the town’s attorney which have served no other purpose other than to poison potential jurors in the area served by the Kennebec Journal,” Sharon wrote.

“The allegations have sought to remove the presumption of innocence from Swan. We are anxious to let 12 persons who have no preconception of Mrs. Swan’s guilt decide whether it was their selectperson or Monroe who was short-changing the city.”

In an email, Langdorf responded: “The only information I provided came from court records and discussions with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, district attorney, FBI and (Kennebec County) sheriff.

“I am pleased that the case will now be moving toward a trial,” Langsdorf wrote. “It is important to the town that justice be done and this ugly chapter in town history be relegated to the past. I am confident that the Superior Court justice will take appropriate measures to ensure a fair trial in Kennebec County”