A town councilor in Windham has resigned after months of allegations of inappropriate conduct relating to the town’s controversial move to join the county’s 911 dispatch operation.

Bill Tracy, chairman of the Town Council, submitted his letter of resignation late Monday, citing “personal reasons” for leaving his at-large seat. He declined to comment further.

The town decided in June to shut down Windham’s emergency dispatch center and join Cumberland County’s regional dispatching operation. The cost-saving change was recommended during budget deliberations by the council and approved by voters.

Tracy is the third person on the seven-member Town Council to step down this fall.

Tracy, who is a vice president and director of business banking for Gorham Savings Bank, was accused by former Windham police Sgt. Michael Denbow of having a conflict of interest in the dispatching issue because Cumberland County does business with the bank.

Denbow, a 29-year veteran of the force, lost his job in August for allegedly using police resources for an unauthorized investigation into the alleged conflict.

Denbow has filed a lawsuit appealing his termination.

At a public hearing held by the council Oct. 26, several residents spoke in favor of Denbow’s actions, calling on town officials to reinstate him to the force. Residents also expressed anger at Tracy and accused him of bullying councilors who defended Denbow.

In his resignation letter, Tracy referred to the uproar over the issue and noted that the town manager and police chief have authority to follow through on Denbow’s situation.

“One can join the fray and make accusations based on generalizations or simply move on gracefully with the hope that the town’s work continues with as little disruption as possible,” he wrote. “I have chosen the latter path over the past few months and will continue to do so moving forward.”

On Sept. 14, Councilor Carol Waig resigned after the council approved a policy that limits communication between councilors and town employees. That policy was developed partly in response to public debate about the Denbow case.

On Oct. 26, Councilor Donna Chapman abruptly withdrew her bid for re-election over allegations that she violated the town charter when she gave an interview to a newspaper about Denbow’s dismissal.

At a subsequent council meeting, residents asked to address the council about the issue, but the council did not allow public discussion.

Chapman said Tuesday that Tracy should resign, because of “his mistreatment of female council members and his blatant abuse of power.”

“You can’t tell a taxpaying citizen that they can’t speak,” she said. “They have a vested interest in this town. It goes against everything an elected official is supposed to do.”

But Councilor Peter Busque said Tracy’s resignation is a loss.

“It’s too bad for the town of Windham,” he said. “He moves stuff forward really good. It’s the best-run council that I’ve seen in years.”

Tracy served on the council for one year of his three-year term. The council will likely appoint someone by the end of this month to fill his seat until November 2011, when residents would elect a candidate for the year remaining in the term.

 

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

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