PORTLAND – Three newly elected members to the City Council were sworn in to three-year terms Monday. But it was Mayor Michael Brennan’s committee assignments that generated the buzz in an otherwise routine ceremony.

Brennan, who has sole discretion over the assignments, removed Councilor Cheryl Leeman from the Housing and Community Development Committee, which is considered a powerful panel, and reassigned her to the Public Safety, Health and Human Services Committee.

“I am both surprised and disappointed,” said Leeman after the meeting. “But I look forward to the challenge of the next committee assignment.”

Leeman has served on a housing or development committee for about 20 of her 27 years on the council. Recently Leeman has been a vocal critic of the city’s Tax Increment Financing policy, which she has criticized as too generous in returning property taxes to developers.

She was especially critical of a $9 million subsidy the city gave to help Federated Cos. to build a parking garage for its mixed-use, high-rise development of market rate housing, retail and office space in Bayside.

Resident Mark Riley asked Brennan during public comment why the committee assignments had been kept secret until Monday. City Hall had not responded to his information request, he said. “Nobody seems to know whether there is going to be any changes,” said Riley.

Brennan said the committee assignments had been made public last week, but as of Monday afternoon they were not posted online with regular council materials. He later clarified that the assignments were sent to councilors.

“I had thought that when things were sent to the City Council they were posted online,” said Brennan. Brennan made a few other committee changes that did not appear to disappoint the councilors affected.

“This year, I attended various committee meetings and I made decisions based on the how I could best strengthen the committees,” he said. “It’s not unusual.”

Sworn in during the ceremony were at-large Councilor Nicholas Mavodones Jr., who is beginning his sixth term on the council, and two councilors starting their third terms: 1st District Councilor Kevin Donoghue and 2nd District Councilor David Marshall.

Brennan praised the three returning council members. “I am hopeful we will continue to make good policy and good decisions on behalf of the people of Portland,” he said.

During a separate ceremony Monday afternoon, Sarah Thompson, Jenna Vendil and Holly Seeliger were sworn in to three-year terms on the school board. This is Seeliger’s first term in elected office, while Thompson and Vendil are returning board members.

Jaimey Caron was named board chairman and Justin Costa was named board vice chairman.

City Hall spokeswoman Nicole Clegg said councilors and school board members earn an annual stipend of $5,900.

 

Staff Writer Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

rbillings@mainetoday.com

Twitter: @randybillings