November 14, 2013

Maine woman accused of spitting on selectman pleads not guilty

Cindy E. Brown, 53, is charged with assault after she allegedly spit on Starks First Selectman Paul Frederic outside a planning board meeting.

By Rachel Ohm
Staff Writer

A Starks woman accused of spitting on a selectman outside a meeting about a proposal to build a cellphone tower near her home pleaded not guilty Wednesday.

IN COURT: Cindy Brown, shown July 15, pleaded not guilty to a class D assault charge Wednesday in connection with an incident in which she allegedly spat on a Starks selectman.

Staff file photo by David Leaming

Town officials, meanwhile, continue to discuss whether the tower will be built.

Cindy E. Brown, 53, who made her first appearance in Skowhegan District Court, was summoned after she was accused of intentionally spitting on Starks First Selectman Paul Frederic. The incident took place outside the Starks Community Center during a meeting at which the town Planning Board approved the construction of a cellphone tower near Brown’s property.

The town appeals board is continuing to review an appeal filed by Brown and her husband saying that the cellphone tower review process was unfair and that the decision should be reversed.

On Wednesday in court, Brown said she understood her rights and had no questions on the legal process, before she entered her plea.

Outside the courtroom, Brown refused to comment. Frederic also said he had no comment Wednesday.

Brown is charged with class D assault. It is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine, but the state is seeking a fine only if Brown is convicted, assistant district attorney Francis Griffin Jr. said Wednesday.

In the weeks leading up to the Planning Board’s decision to approve the cell tower project on August 22, the proposal was a source of controversy.

Brown and her husband, Harry Brown, were among residents who opposed construction of the tower, which would be about 700 feet from their home on Abijah Hill Road.

Selectmen, meanwhile, endorsed the tower in a town newsletter, saying it would provide better emergency response service, communication and Internet service in the area.

The Browns appealed the Planning Board’s decision, which is being reviewed by the appeals board, said Chairman George Martikke. A public hearing is a required part of the appeals process, but one has not been scheduled yet, Martikke said.

There is no deadline for when a decision must be made on the appeal, he said.

The appeal, which was submitted in late September, is missing information from both the Browns and the Planning Board, he said.

The Browns have until Nov. 23 to respond to a request for more details about why they oppose the board’s decision, and the Planning Board is being asked to submit maps to accompany the information they have provided, Martikke said.

The appeals board meets as needed, and a meeting has not been scheduled for further discussion of the appeal, Martikke said. He said board members hope to meet at the end of the month to schedule a public hearing on the appeal.

Original plans for the tower included having construction completed this fall, according to the application from Massachusetts-based Bay Communications II LLC.

Brown’s next court appearance is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Jan. 22 in Skowhegan District Court.

Rachel Ohm— 612-2368

Twitter: @rachel_ohm@rachel_ohm

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