BANGOR – Jurors in the extortion trial of former Chelsea selectwoman Carole Swan heard Thursday about a 2010 “shredding party” at the Town Office, and from a defense attorney who said Swan was a public servant who had the tables turned on her.
Swan, 55, faces three counts of extortion related to an alleged kickback scheme involving Whitefield contractor Frank Monroe. On the third day of her trial in U.S. District Court in Bangor, the prosecution wrapped up its case and Swan’s attorney began putting on his defense.
Attorney Leonard Sharon told jurors that Swan served the town well for nearly two decades.
“She was not elected 19 years because she was a thief,” he said. “She was not elected 19 years because she was an extortionist. … She put herself in the line of fire and it was turned on her.”
The day began with the prosecution detailing a “shredding party” of older documents at the Chelsea Town Office.
Tanya Condon, who spent 18 months as a selectwoman before resigning in December 2010, testified that the idea to shred the documents could well have come from her after the Town Office staff requested the purchase of an additional filing cabinet.
She said she was reluctant to buy another one because the office was already full of them.
“It was a piece of history, but we didn’t need dog complaints from the ’70s and ’80s,” Condon testified.
‘THESE WERE LEGAL DOCUMENTS’
On Wednesday, Sharon Morang, another former selectwoman, also described the shredding incident of February 2010 in which she said Condon, Morang, Swan and former Town Manager Angela Gordon participated.
“We were going to the Town Office to do shredding of paperwork that was apparently overabundant and unnecessary,” Morang testified. “I was concerned. These were legal documents.”
She said she got advice against doing it from an attorney at the Maine Municipal Association and relayed that to the other selectmen present, but the shredding continued.
“The three shredders they were using were so hot they had to let them cool off,” Morang said. She said she found five bags of shredded documents when she arrived at the town office 30 to 40 minutes late.
Morang said she was able to prevent the shredding of an original document deeding the Town Office and school property to the town.
The testimony of Condon and Morang related to how the town managed its business with Monroe, the Whitefield contractor who held the plowing contracts with the town of Chelsea from 2008 to 2012.
Swan is accused of seeking a total of $20,000 in kickbacks from Monroe on three dates between January 2010 and February 2011 while she was on the Board of Selectmen.
Condon said she was reluctant to give both the plowing and sand supplying contract to the same individual.
“They have a lot to gain by overusing (sand), and that’s a concern,” Condon testified.
She said she had not seen some of the contract provisions that were found in town records that authorities seized from Swan’s home.
PREVIEW OF DEFENDANT’S TESTIMONY
The prosecution has said Swan substituted pages in a snowplowing contract — without the knowledge of the other two selectmen — converting a one-year extension of the contract to two years.
Morang said she authorized only a one-year extension for Monroe, to run for the 2010-2011 season.
After the prosecution rested its case, Swan’s attorney told the jurors, “You’ve only heard one half of the story.”
“When you hear everything … there will be a reasonable doubt that she intended to extort money from Mr. Monroe to the detriment to the town that she worked for doggedly,” attorney Sharon said.
He said Swan herself was investigating Monroe.
“We will present witnesses who will testify to you that they know and they have spoken to people in the town of Chelsea that this man has a reputation for dishonesty,” Sharon said.
He said jurors should disregard the confession that Swan appears to give on videotape when she was questioned by detectives.
“They made promises to her they couldn’t keep and threatened her with 15 to 25 years (in prison),” Sharon said. “That is an interrogation.”
Sharon said Swan “was the victim of year after year after year of the most horrific spousal abuse imaginable,” and that she had learned from that to tell people what they wanted to hear.
He told jurors that Swan will testify about her investigation into Monroe and how she believed she had to obtain more than $10,000 from him before a prosecution could begin.
In July, Swan was convicted of two counts of workers’ compensation fraud and five counts of falsifying income tax returns by failing to declare about $650,000 in income from Marshall Swan Construction. Also, a jury found that she had failed to pay $140,000 in income and self-employment taxes.
GAPS IN TOWN RECORD-KEEPING
Earlier Thursday, Gordon, the former town manager, testified that when investigators asked for a copy of the town’s plowing contract with Monroe, Swan was unable to locate it at the Town Office, so she printed one from the computer and brought it to the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office.
Gordon testified that Swan did not attend all the selectmen’s meetings, particularly those that occurred before she was appointed town manager. She said no records from those sessions confirm any discussion about extending Monroe’s 2008-2010 contract.
“They never did minutes,” Gordon testified.
Gordon was hired as town clerk in December 2009, became interim town manager in spring 2010 and then town manager, before quitting in June 2011.
FBI Special Agent Mark Miller testified he found different versions of Monroe’s plow contract extension for 2010-2012 in documents taken from Carole Swan’s home on Feb. 3, 2011.
One version had a “Note to selectboard. Contractor has right to renew option at same price indefinitely” and “Contractor has the right to renew sand contract.” Some contract versions had no dollar totals; others had incorrect calculations and incorrect numbers of payments, he testified. Some of the contracts were shown on monitors in the courtroom.
Miller said he became involved with the case in early February 2011 after he read a story in the Kennebec Journal about the sheriff’s investigation of Swan. “I realized there was a public corruption aspect to this and went to county investigators,” he testified.
Miller said he went through town records, looking for copies of Monroe’s contract. The only official copy he found was one supplied by the current town manager, Scott Tilton, covering the 2008-2010 seasons.
“I seized 34 banker’s boxes of documents from the town of Chelsea,” Miller said. “The place was empty when I left except for (vehicle registration) documents.”
Betty Adams can be contacted at 621-5631 or at: