SOUTH PORTLAND — The city has hired an outside firm to investigate a public accusation made by a resident against City Councilor Katelyn Bruzgo during a recent council meeting.

A Sawyer Street resident made the complaint during the public comment segment at the start of the Oct. 12 council meeting, which was held on Zoom.

Bruzgo declined to discuss the accusation for this story, and while details of the complaint against her are unclear, the City Council has moved forward with an investigation at the urging of other residents.

The resident who made the accusation said a roommate had recently posted a story on Instagram about “bad service” they had received at Omi’s, a coffee shop at 372 Cottage Road that Bruzgo owns and operates with her wife.

Identified only as Brooke, the person who spoke at the meeting said the roommate’s social media post also included “accusations of transphobia that we were hearing about.”

A week after the social media post, the resident said, “the police were called to our house over what basically equates to a bad Yelp review.” The resident didn’t specify who called the police or explain what the police said or did at their house.

“I’m Black,” said the resident, noting that the roommate also is a person of color. “I find it very disturbing and upsetting that someone who runs on a platform of equality would basically weaponize their power both politically or rather racially to terrorize people in our community.”

The resident also said, “I find it completely inappropriate that she would weaponize the police against Black and Brown people living in this community, and there’s been a complete lack of apology or any restitution for this.”

The resident asked the council to look into the matter. Other residents who spoke during the meeting on other matters said they were disturbed by the accusation and urged the council to investigate.

Mayor Misha Pride said the council felt obligated to act.

“We all heard an accusation and we can’t ignore it,” Pride said. “We don’t want any appearance of a cover-up or a conflict of interest.”

City officials first contacted the Maine Attorney General’s Office, but that office declined to take the case because the complaint isn’t criminal in nature, Pride said.

Sally Daggett, the city’s corporation counsel and an attorney with Jensen Baird in Portland, advised the city to hire an outside firm to investigate, Pride said. Jensen Baird tapped Tawny Alvarez, a partner at Verrill Dana in Portland, Pride said.

Alvarez specializes in employment law and breach of separation agreements; harassment, discrimination and retaliation cases; social media and technology in the workplace; and the food and beverage industry, according to the law firm’s website.

City Manager Scott Morelli said city officials will leave it to the investigation to determine the surname of the resident who lodged the complaint.

“We’re trying to keep it as independent as possible,” Morelli said.

Morelli said he didn’t know how long the investigation would take or how much it would cost, but it likely would be less than $10,000.

Bruzgo declined to discuss the accusation until a report is issued.

“That’s going to provide a lot of clarification for people,” Bruzgo said. “Some people in the public requested this and I want to be as transparent as possible.”

She also said she wants to remain “as kind as possible” throughout the investigation.

“I can say that I am in no way transphobic or racist,” Bruzgo said.

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