ALFRED — An attorney for the former Ogunquit town manager charged with stealing $400 in improperly collected town parking fees said his client was targeted for prosecution because his brash, cocky management style won him detractors during his tenure as manager.

“There are two sides to every story,” Bruce Merrill said during his brief opening statements in Tom Fortier’s trial at the York County Courthouse on Monday.

But a state’s attorney said the case was about a simple theft and how Fortier used his position of authority to make two teenage employees participate in his scheme.

“This case boils down to two young men,” Assistant District Attorney Joshua Saucier said. “It’s about their boss, and it’s about what their boss made them do.”

Fortier is charged with misdemeanor theft. His alleged failure to turn over the parking fees to the town in 2016 also generated a charge of misdemeanor official oppression, when a public servant acts to intentionally benefit himself but purports that the conduct is part of his office, or fails to perform some official duty of his office.

Fortier’s time in town government had been the source of much consternation among residents, including for his use of the town credit card for personal expenses and a 2012 case in which he was the prime suspect for the theft of $10,200 in parking fees from a town hall safe. He was never prosecuted for that incident.

After he was summonsed in August 2016, Fortier resigned on Feb. 7, 2017, but was paid his usual $125,000 annual salary until June 30 as part of a severance deal with the town.

According to the state, on July 4, 2016, Fortier took responsibility for managing the lower lot parking area near the beach in Ogunquit, and for about one hour in the evening, directed two employees – Cody Cousins and his brother, who is a minor – to accept payment for parking at the city-owned lot after it was supposed to be free.

Fortier and his crew arrived at the parking lot around 4 p.m. They were supposed to make sure that a minimum number of parking spaces vacated by drivers leaving remained available for volunteers who helped at the town’s July Fourth celebration, and for a woman who was supposed to sing the national anthem that night.

But the singer and volunteers never showed up to claim their free parking spaces.

Cody Cousins, who testified Monday, said Fortier stood on River Road directing the jam of cars, while Cousins and his brother stood near the lot entrance.

Around 5:30 p.m., Cousins said Fortier directed them to begin collecting $20 per car to park in the lot.

Fortier was flexible, however, on the price, Cousins testified.

If some people had only $10 in cash, Fortier accepted it, Cousins said. When someone came into the lot in a tiny Smart Car, the driver made a joke. “(The driver said) ‘half price for half a car?’ and he accepted it,” Cousins said.

Cousins and his brother said they accepted the money, and periodically Fortier, dressed in an orange reflective vest, walked over from his position about 30 feet away to collect the cash.

Cousins estimated that he was instructed to charge for parking for about an hour that night. He charged between 20 and 30 drivers, but did not know how much money he collected.

Neither Cousins nor his brother counted the cars or the cash, he said. A short time later, Fortier directed the two teenagers to clean up trash and debris left by tourists on Marginal Way.

At the end of the night, Fortier offered the brothers a cut of the money, Cousins testified.

“He said, ‘You guys did a great job, do you want some of this?'” Cousins said. “I refused. To me it wasn’t the right way to reward someone for good work.”

Under cross-examination by Merrill, Cousins said he was not trained as a parking attendant, could not remember exactly how many cars came into and left the lot, and said he trusted Fortier’s instructions to collect cash.

“He was the town manager and our boss,” Cousins said.

Merrill also called attention to the roughly month-long delay in reporting the alleged theft. Cousins said he may have told his parents about what happened immediately after July 4, but otherwise did not discuss it until he was contacted by authorities.

Fortier’s trial is expected to last three or four days.

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

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