WINDHAM — A town councilor said an initial third-party review into concerns raised within the Public Works Department was “sabotaged” and called the council a “snake pit” this week.

Councilor Jarrod Maxfield made the comments during the council’s Tuesday, Aug. 28, meeting while also criticizing council leadership.

Council Chairwoman Donna Chapman said in an interview later in the week that she believes Maxfeld and Councilor Tim Nangle have illegally been recording closed council meetings, an allegation that both men strongly deny.

Chapman said at the meeting she expects a second, expanded third-party review of all town departments soon will be available to the public.

The council voted 7-0 July 10 to approve $25,000 for that review, which looked at all town departments and was conducted by Portland-based Opus Consulting Group, Chapman said.

Town management initiated the first outside review, which was conducted by consultant William O’Brien and released in March.

That first report found a need for more leadership, communication, accountability and trust within the Windham Public Works Department. The report also outlined various steps to deal with those issues through a corrective action plan.

Public works employees and their Teamsters representative were not satisfied with the first review or the town management’s response implementing the corrective action plan, voting no confidence in department and town leadership while calling on the council to intervene.

Chapman in July called the second review “one way that these complaints can be looked into in a fair and unbiased way.”

Chapman said this week that the council reviewed a draft report of the second review during an executive session on Monday, Aug. 27. A version of the report that does not include personnel information identifying employees will be made available to the public in the near future, she said.

“Because again, it was taxpayers’ money,” she emphasized.

Chapman said the cost of the review is about $25,000, the amount approved by the council.

Maxfield, on the council since 2016, has clashed occasionally with Chapman since last fall when she became chairwoman for the second time. He read a prepared statement during the councilor comment portion of Tuesday night’s meeting, in which he gave the initial impression he was resigning before emphasizing that he would not do so.

“In my opinion, this first $8,000 organizational review was sabotaged by some members of town staff and some members of this council to further their own vindictive vendettas and not allow a process that the taxpayers paid for to complete,” Maxfield said.

In an interview Wednesday, Chapman pushed back against that claim.

“None of us sabotaged that report in leadership or on the council,” she said.

Maxfield called the council a “snake pit” and said the council chamber is “often where good ideas, facts and reason come to die.”

“I want to resign, but there’s not a chance that I’m going to – because I don’t quit,” he said. “I’m going to press on, and from now on I’m going to be here to point out the hypocrisy, lies and lack of leadership until something changes that finally benefits the people of Windham in a manner that they deserve.”

He claimed that other council members “deride and bully town staff, council members and even guests as a matter of standard operating procedure” and said that “the last year has been a year of chaos, dysfunction and a disservice to the people of Windham from this council.”

“The Windham Town Council is squandering opportunity on the back of taxpayers, and many people know it,” he added.

Maxfield also said he was inspired by words written about Sen. John McCain following the widely respected statesman’s death last week.

“He despised bullies. He loved to battle them,” Maxfield said. “And you know, I do too. I despise them. We should all treat people the way we want to be treated, and that is not the common theme in this room for years.”

Following Tuesday night’s meeting, Maxfield declined to mention any fellow councilors by name when asked by a reporter who he was talking about in his remarks. None of his colleagues responded to his comments during the meeting.

Asked about Maxfield’s remarks Wednesday, Chapman said that “all views are appreciated, as long as it doesn’t become a personal attack.”

Chapman acknowledged that she and Maxfield have “had differences of opinion in the past” and said he is entitled to his opinion. She agreed with him that “bullying goes on” amongst councilors, but sees it coming from a different source.
Chapman said Maxfield and Councilor Tim Nangle verbally attacked her Monday night “in regards to personal things in my life,” including a GoFundMe page she created to raise money to care for abused, neglected or unwanted animals she takes in at her farm.
“So it is not just myself,” Chapman said. “As you can see, there’s always two sides to it, and I just chose not to engage last night.”
Maxfield did not deny that he and Nangle confronted Chapman, but did deny that it was a form of bullying.
“Asking questions … .is not bullying, it’s good governing,” he said.
Chapman also believes that both Maxfield and Nangle have broken the law by recording closed-door council executive sessions.

Maxfield called that allegation “a categorical lie” and said Chapman has “zero proof” that he or Nangle recorded a closed meeting.

“I categorically deny that allegation – and I want you to print that,” Nangle added Wednesday. “It’s a complete falsehood, and I understand the requirements of the executive session statute very well. And I would never record it or disclose something that was discussed during executive session.”

Nangle also said he agrees with everything Maxfield laid out in his statement Tuesday night.

Maxfield said in an interview Wednesday that Chapman was “trying to portray herself as a victim in an effort to divert attention from her poor leadership” and suggested that she has shared information from executive sessions.

On Wednesday, Chapman provided an email from town attorney Stephen Langsdorf of law firm Preti Flaherty, which was sent to all members of the council in July urging councilors not to violate laws governing executive session.

“Windham Council, I am very concerned that there have been disclosures of statements that were made in executive session. It is a violation of law to reveal to anyone what has been said in executive session,” Langsdorf said. “It is also illegal to record executive sessions. Please make sure not to violate this important duty you have as councilors.”

Langsdorf’s email did not single out any councilors specifically.

“We’re trying to follow the rules,” Chapman emphasized Wednesday morning. “We’re not perfect – none of us are.”

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.

Windham Town Councilor Jarrod Maxfield called the council a “snake pit” during an Aug. 28 meeting, where he also said an initial review into the town’s public works department was “sabotaged.”

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