GORHAM – Upset over his wife’s routine speeding ticket last month, an Auburn city councilor is causing headaches in Gorham.

Michael Farrell, who represents Ward 1 on the Auburn City Council, was in another car at the scene of the traffic stop. He says two Gorham police vehicles he saw that night didn’t have rear plate lights. He also claims the speed limit on the section of Huston Road where his wife was stopped should be 35 mph, not 30, as posted.

“I’m not after vengeance,” Farrell said Wednesday. “I’m after righteousness.”

The situation unfolded after ice hockey practice for children on the Gorham campus of the University of Southern Maine. Farrell said he, his wife and a friend were traveling in separate vehicles on Huston Road. Farrell said they were near the intersection of Route 237 when his wife was pulled over for speeding.

Lt. Chris Sanborn of Gorham Police Department said Tuesday Lindsay Thibeault of Auburn was stopped for speeding at 7:30 p.m., on Tuesday, Sept. 21, on Huston Road. Sanborn said the speed limit is 30 mph.

Farrell said this week that his wife received the ticket for going 40 mph in the area posted 30 mph. Farrell said she didn’t contest the ticket in court and had paid a $137 fine.

Now, Farrell has asked the town under the state Freedom of Access law and the federal Freedom of Information Act for service logs and repair records of Gorham police cruisers, “especially plate number 2047.”

After his wife was issued the ticket, Farrell, with his 9-year-old son, said he followed the cruiser to Gorham’s police station. In an e-mail to the town, Farrell said he explained the inspection issue to the shift sergeant and said he pointed out that an unmarked Ford Explorer also lacked license plate lights. He said he was told that the vehicle would continue in service before going to public works the next morning.

“I stated my case, inspection rule and law and the fact that I would appreciate him to explain to my son why the PD can break the law without having to explain themselves,” Farrell wrote in an e-mail to the town, one of several related to the matter obtained by the American Journal through a Freedom of Access request. “This is the basic definition of hypocrisy.”

Farrell said he sent e-mail requests to Gorham town councilors, but they hadn’t directly provided information. He did have a response from Mike Phinney, chairman of the Gorham Town Council, who said he was referring Farrell’s request to Town Manager David Cole.

“I don’t want filtered information,” said Farrell, who said he wants to hear from the “horse’s mouth.”

Farrell has also asked the town for certificates relating to right-to-know law training of Gorham officials. Farrell had a response from Cole, who said town records are available for inspection.

Farrell also has e-mailed Gorham police Chief Ron Shepard about the matter. Shepard declined comment Tuesday.

Farrell also plans to personally air his grievances. “My goal is to speak at a Town Council meeting,” Farrell said.

In an e-mail to the town, Farrell, who said he’s a licensed state inspection mechanic, wrote, “The cruiser in question had no rear plate lights.”

“As the officer drove past my vehicle, I noticed he had an unsafe motor vehicle,” Farrell said.

Cole denied the claim about the license plate light. “My understanding is the light was checked and was functioning,” Cole said, adding, “I’m not sure what difference it would make.”

Farrell said in an e-mail to town officials that he had contacted the motor vehicle “inspection guys” for the state police and was told that police departments take out bulbs for camouflage and is a violation. He said he was also told that “better than half the state police cars and local PDs do the same.”

Farrell further said in his e-mail that Auburn police and Androscoggin County have pre-shift vehicle inspections, and assumed Gorham police does, as well.

Phinney said in his e-mail to Farrell, “On a side note, I was amazed that you were told that half of the Maine State troopers, as well as half of the police vehicles in the state had their license plate disabled. Thank goodness none of the vehicles in the Auburn Police Department have had those lights disabled or failed.”

Farrell said in an e-mail to Shepard that he had contacted the Department of Transportation, Motor Vehicle Inspections Division and the Attorney General’s Office.

Cole said Farrell has an appointment at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 2, to view town records in Cole’s office at the Gorham Municipal Center.

“After you have inspected the documents, we will be happy to provide you with a copy of any document that you would like at our standard charge of 50 cents for the first page and 25 cents for subsequent pages,” Cole said in an e-mail response to Farrell.

Farrell also said the state approved 35 mph for that Huston Road zone in 2001. But since, he said, the speed limit has been changed without approval. Farrell said he consulted a lawyer Tuesday about the issue.


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