Biddeford’s mayor is vowing to crack down on disruptions of City Council meetings by critics of the city’s response to sex abuse allegations, and has accused them of using the issue to further their own political aims.

Mayor Alan Casavant made the comments in an email Monday to city residents. It was the first time he has discussed at length the tension surrounding the allegations against a former city police officer and the resulting criminal investigation that ended recently when the Attorney General’s Office declined to file charges. The City Council last week voted not to launch an internal investigation of the department or put the police chief on leave, despite pleas from alleged victims and their supporters to do more to address the turmoil.

Since Biddeford native Matt Lauzon went public earlier this year with allegations that now-retired officer Stephen Dodd sexually abused him more than a decade ago, he and his supporters have waged an aggressive campaign on social media and at city meetings to bring attention to the issue and demand action by city officials. Two council meetings were abruptly ended because of unruly behavior by the audience and others have been disrupted by profane outbursts and shouting.

City officials have largely stayed quiet, citing first the criminal investigation, then the threat of a civil lawsuit Lauzon says he will file by the end of the year. But in his email, Casavant, who is running for re-election in November, wrote at length about council meetings he says have been “under siege by a small, very vocal, coordinated minority” of residents.

“I’ll be blunt,” Casavant wrote. “This conduct is deplorable, and it is a mere handful of residents who have decided that, in this way, they will hijack every meeting – using any excuse.”

If people speaking during public comment periods – held at the end of council meetings – continue to swear, heckle or yell, Casavant said, he will immediately recess the meeting for the evening. He said that would be unfortunate because it deprives others of the opportunity to address the council.

“I’m not going to give them a forum for their obscenities and manufactured news,” he said Tuesday.

The tensions surrounding Lauzon’s allegations have become increasingly politicized as the city heads toward an election where residents will choose a mayor, all nine city councilors and school board members. Among the candidates are vocal supporters of Lauzon and other alleged victims. Lauzon’s mother, Debbie Lauzon, is running for city council.

Casavant’s letter accuses critics of trying to “trigger a loss of respect and faith in current elected officials. … The mission of the group has completely morphed and the purpose now, very poorly concealed, is to destabilize and undermine the current city government in order to secure public office for themselves.”

Lauzon bristled at the mayor’s letter and renewed his challenge to have Casavant take a lie-detector test in public while answering questions about his response to the abuse allegations. Lauzon said he would do the same.

“My rebuttal (to the letter) will be in court,” Lauzon said Tuesday. “I’m disgusted that the mayor has used sexual abuse of children for political gain and I’m surprised that he’d so openly publish misinformation.”

Lauzon said he does not know of any candidates running for office solely because of the sex abuse issue.

Lauzon’s attorney, Walter McKee, said Casavant’s letter “was more than a little bizarre with its conspiracy theories and hyper-defensiveness.”

“I don’t know that the mayor is talking about when he rattles on about politics,” McKee said. “It is really quite simple. He and others on the council don’t want to do anything despite overwhelming evidence of sexual abuse by city employees and knowledge of superiors. If the people of Biddeford think that’s a great idea they will re-elect them; if they don’t, they might consider another option that certainly can’t be any worse.”

In his letter, Casavant said the council has not been dismissive of stories of abuse from decades ago and has not ignored the alleged victims. He said information reviewed by the council shows allegations that Police Chief Roger Beaupre and others covered up the abuse are “emphatically false.”

Casavant also said that taking “hostile employment action” – or suspending – the police chief would violate Beaupre’s right to privacy, violate his right to due process and violate many municipal, state and federal regulations.

Daniel Parenteau, who is running against Casavant, said in an email Tuesday that he has not always agreed with Matt Lauzon or his supporters and is running for mayor for a long list of reasons beyond the city’s handling of the controversy.

“It is widely known that I have not made the issue of sexual assault in this city a singular platform in this campaign,” he said.

“Let this be about the needs of the citizens and not perpetuate a destructive narrative.”


Comments are not available on this story.