The Old Orchard Beach police chief on Friday released a statement to address allegations circulating in town that a town councilor used a racial slur during an encounter with a man collecting signatures on a recall petition.

Police Chief Dana Kelley said the unidentified man, who is African-American, told police a town councilor called him the offensive name while he was collecting signatures near the post office Wednesday afternoon. Kelley did not disclose which town councilor is alleged to have used the slur and declined to release documents related to the investigation.

Kelley said his department concluded there is no probable cause to find that the behavior of the town councilor was criminal.

The department has closed the case, and forwarded its information and conclusion to the Attorney General’s Office for review.

On Wednesday afternoon, police received a call from a man who said he had just been threatened. Kelley said officers interviewed witnesses and the man, but concluded no threat had been communicated.

“In the process of investigating this incident, officers were told that earlier in the day, an Old Orchard Beach town councilor had directed a racial slur at a gentleman collecting signatures for one of the two recall petitions currently being circulated in (town),” the chief said in the statement.

Officers sought the unidentified man out, but he initially told police “he did not want to make a complaint, wanted nothing to do with it and was not interested in having us pursue it further,” Kelley said. On Thursday, the man came to the police department and asked to speak to an officer.

“He stated that after thinking about the incident he felt the councilor’s behavior was inappropriate and wanted an apology,” Kelley said. “He again reiterated that he did not want the councilor charged with anything, but felt that as a councilor, the behavior was inappropriate and that he was due an apology.” 

According to Kelley, the Attorney General’s Office said it will review the information gathered by Old Orchard Beach police and provide an opinion next week.

The accusation comes at a time of heightened political tension in town. Two separate groups are trying to recall town councilors as part of the fallout from a March 5 council decision to oust Town Manager Mark Pearson, who is now suing the town to get his job back.

The first of two petitions was submitted Thursday to recall councilors Sharri MacDonald, Laura Bolduc, Dana Furtado and Linda Mailhot. A second group has until Tuesday to submit enough signatures to move forward with the recall of councilors Michael Coleman, Robin Dayton and Robert Quinn. If at least 815 valid signatures are certified on each petition, there will be a referendum for an up-or-down vote on each councilor.

Staff Writer Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

ggraham@mainetoday.com

Twitter: grahamgillian