A Kennebunk resident has filed a civil complaint against the town, alleging it erred when denying documents he requested. Tammy Wells photo

ALFRED – Kennebunk resident John Costin has filed a civil complaint against the town of Kennebunk, alleging the town was wrong when it denied his request to see a report pertaining to a town committee.

Costin is asking the court to order that the report be made available to him, and for an award of costs and attorney’s fees, and “other relief the court may deem equitable and just.”

The April 21 complaint, an appeal of governmental action, was filed at York County Superior Court in Alfred. Costin is representing himself in the action.

The town has 30 days from the date they were served notice of the filing to respond to the suit.

Costin is currently a member of the budget board and is a former chair of a Charter Commission. He frequently speaks of municipal topics during public comment at Kennebunk Select Board meetings. He was an unsuccessful candidate for select board in 2021.

On March 22, Costin said in the civil suit, he made a written request to the town seeking a report he said was created “following an investigation initiated by the town into events that occurred during a public meeting of the town’s Committee on Aging.”


Municipal agendas and minutes show all seven members of the volunteer Committee on Aging tendered their resignations to the board on Nov 9. Minutes of the Committee on Aging dated Oct. 14 state: “The committee determined that the town committee structure is not an effective vehicle to enable volunteers to work for the older citizens of Kennebunk.”

Exhibits attached to the complaint show Costin wrote to Human Resources Director Jeri Sheldon March 22, saying he had recently been told an investigation was conducted into  incidents that  led to the resignation of the Committee on Aging and asked for the report.

Two days later, Sheldon confirmed there was a written report resulting from an assessment of a Committee on Aging meeting. “However, because the assessment was initiated and conducted due to an employee’s allegations, the assessment process is considered a personnel matter,” Sheldon wrote in a response to Costin. “Because it is a personnel matter, the written report is a confidential personnel record pursuant to Title 30-A, Section 2702 and cannot be released.”

Another exhibit filed with the suit contained an allegation of harassment by the committee.

An exhibit of a second email from Sheldon, dated April 7, showed the town was provided guidance from attorney Alyssa Tibbett, who wrote that Sheldon’s denial of Costin’s request was appropriate. Tibbetts noted that records that pertain to an identifiable employee and contain “any other information or materials that may result in disciplinary action,” are confidential under Maine’s Freedom of Access Act, and that “confidentiality of personnel records under this provision is not limited to complaints against employees.”

In the suit, Costin noted committee members are not employees.


He contended that the plain meaning of the municipal employees section of the Maine Freedom of Access Act “is intended to refer to personnel records of municipal employees containing personal and job performance information about them,” and when the statute refers to complaints, charges or accusations of misconduct, Costin said, “it is clearly referring to complaints, etc., directed at municipal employees.”

He argues that the town’s interpretation of the statute “is so broad that, were it to be granted, virtually any record that referenced an identifiable municipal employee could be deemed confidential.”

Some elements of the matter were raised by Costin at a recent board meeting, where he indicated he believed the town’s interpretation of the Freedom of Access Act was incorrect.

Board Chair Blake Baldwin responded.

“It is unfair in my view, for John to lecture us when it is a well-known principle of law that parties to litigation should not have ex parte communications amongst themselves,” said Baldwin, in part.

Costin asked about the board’s level of commitment to transparency.

“We are entirely committed to transparency,” said Baldwin. He said he is perplexed at the notion that there is something hidden.

“There isn’t anything we’re hiding from you,” said Baldwin. “We are an open book here, any suggestion to the contrary is silly.”

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