September 12, 2013

Jury told of 'shredding party' in Maine politician's trial

One former selectwoman says the records were not needed, but another says they included legal papers.

By BETTY ADAMS Kennebec Journal

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.

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Carole Swann

Staff file photo by Betty Adams

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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.

(Continued on page 2)

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