September 4, 2013

Bath's sale of building was illegal, critic says

There was no bid process as required by the city charter, says a man seeking to recall five councilors over the deal.

By J. Craig Anderson
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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The city's sale of Mid Coast Center was illegal because it violated the city charter, says a retired attorney who is helping to lead an effort to recall five Bath city councilors.

Gabe Souza / Staff Photographer

Mateosian said the former hospital's square footage has been grossly overestimated, and it has only about 45,000 square feet of leasable space. As for the fair market value, he said, that is largely a matter of opinion.

"Let four different appraisers value a property and you are likely to get four different answers," Mateosian said.

He acknowledged that the city's failure to list the property may have given the appearance of a biased decision-making process. He said, however, that the process was impartial.

"That was our error and we have learned from it," Mateosian said. "In light of the criticism of the sale, the city has revised its policy for property disposition."

All of the city's actions leading up to the sale occurred before the City Council approved it on April 17.

No prior council vote was taken on how the property would be sold, or on whether it should be opened up to competitive bids.

In his email, Wischkaemper told the council that it had been deceived.

"You were not told the property had already been privately placed with a broker at a price you had not yet approved; you were not told that broker had sold the property without putting it to the public; you were not told a secret agreement not to put the property on the MLS was made with the buyer," he said.

Council Chairman Bernie Wyman said Wischkaemper and the other critics of the sale are making too much of it.

"They have blown everything so far out of proportion that people around here don't know what's right and what's wrong," Wyman said. "In my own mind, I don't think that we did anything wrong."

Wyman said the council has asked the state Attorney General's Office and the Maine Municipal Association for their opinions on the legality of the sale and how it should be investigated.

The council already has committed to hiring an independent investigator to examine the sale and interview all of the participants to produce a public report. It plans to discuss the investigation in more detail at Wednesday's meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m. at City Hall.

Wischkaemper said he and Scott will have a table outside City Hall with recall petitions for residents to sign. They are seeking recall elections for five councilors: Wyman, Carolyn Lockwood, Meadow Merrill, Sean Paulhus and Andrew Winglass.

Two other councilors who the critics oppose, Leverett "Tink" Mitchell and Mari Eosco, already are up for re-election in November.

The eighth councilor, David Sinclair, is not being targeted because he has criticized the city's handling of the sale and called for greater transparency.

J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at:

Twitter: @jcraiganderson 

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