March 16, 2010

Residents move past selectman's arrest for drugs

DENNIS HOEY

— By

click image to enlarge

Jail mug of Scott Gove, a selectman from Damariscotta arrested on drug charges.

Staff Writer

Damariscotta residents say they are angry and embarrassed over the arrest of Selectman Scott Gove, who, along with his wife, faces drug charges stemming from a three-year investigation.

''I think this whole thing is an embarrassment for the community,'' said George Betke, a transportation consultant who has lived in Damariscotta for 12 years.

Gove, a selectman for eight years who was elected chairman last year, resigned May 28. In his letter, he said his arrest could prove to be a distraction when conducting town business.

''The facts regarding the charges against me will eventually come to light through the court process, but at this point I must conclude that the charges, combined with rumors and speculation which will predictably accompany them, will make my presence at meetings a distraction and make it impossible for me to effectively do my job,'' he wrote in his resignation letter.

Gove's arrest May 24 and subsequent resignation come just days before Damariscotta's local election, a four-way race for two seats on the Board of Selectmen. The election Tuesday will be followed Wednesday by the annual town meeting.

Even after the election, the five-member board will be short one selectman, and a special election will have to be held to fill Gove's seat.

The sooner the better, selectmen say, in order to avoid tie votes on key issues.

''We have tried to convey to our citizens that the daily business of the town goes on,'' said Selectman Richard McLean, who is seeking re-election. ''While this affair may be interesting to people, it really has had no impact on the town.''

According to the Lincoln County Sheriff's Department, Gove, 42, and his wife, Christine Gove, were charged with illegal importation of schedule W drugs (cocaine) and unlawful possession of schedule W drugs. They both face up to five years in prison if convicted.

Police, who executed a search warrant at the couple's home on Abby Lane, said the investigation took three years to complete. Police said they found 2 grams of cocaine, scales with white residue, ledgers pertaining to the sale of drugs and drug paraphernalia inside the Goves' home.

Scott Gove, who was released on $1,000 bail, is scheduled to make an initial appearance July 15 in Lincoln County Superior Court. His wife's court date has not been scheduled.

Investigators did not return phone calls, and District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau impounded the search warrant and refused to discuss details of the case, such as why the investigation took the time that it did. Rushlau said he wanted to ''avoid premature disclosure of our investigative leads.''

Attempts to reach Gove at his home and his business, Maine Modular and Manufactured Homes in Waldoboro, were unsuccessful.

His attorney, William M. Avantaggio of Newcastle, said in an e-mail that neither he nor his client would have a comment before Gove's initial court appearance.

One candidate for selectman, Edwin M. Stelzer, said he is relieved that Gove resigned but admits filling his seat will be a priority.

''My initial reaction was he (Gove) is innocent until proven guilty,'' said Stelzer, who is retired from the Navy. ''But then I realized, I was really angry about what happened.''

Other residents feel the same way. Peter Drum, a local attorney who keeps an eye on town government, says his faith in town government has not been shaken.

But he added, ''While nothing has been proven in a court of law, the allegations are unsettling. But the residents should understand that Gove did not have a great deal of authority outside the selectmen's meetings, and the selectmen have four other members.

''For very little compensation, they give a great deal of time in service to the town.''

McLean, the longest-serving selectman with 10 years on the board, said he had no idea that his colleague would ever be accused by police of trafficking drugs.

He said Gove's arrest is on everyone's mind.

''I can't even go to the post office or downtown for a cup of coffee without someone stopping me and asking me, 'What do you think about this?''' McLean said.

Town Manager Greg Zinser said the board has up to three months to fill Gove's seat on the board.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be reached at 386-0320 or at:

dhoey@pressherald.com

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