Paul Whitmarsh said he had to hire his own lawyer to defend himself against the town. Contributed / Paul Whitmarsh

The North Yarmouth Select Board undermined the Planning Board’s authority when it held a misconduct hearing this month on complaints against then-Planning Board Chairperson Paul Whitmarsh, according to Whitmarsh and former Planning Board member Kimry Corrette.

Corrette resigned in protest Aug. 1, leaving two vacancies on the Planning Board, whose seven members are appointed by the Select Board.

“You undermined the authority of the Planning Board. You questioned it, and that’s what went wrong,” Corrette told the Select Board.

After the misconduct hearing, which Whitmarsh attended with a lawyer he hired at his own expense, town Attorney John Hamer said no further action would be taken on the matter.

Corrette said at the meeting that she was “appalled” that a volunteer board member would be forced “to pay their own lawyer’s fees” to defend themselves against claims made against them in their official role.

Whitmarsh said his misconduct hearing was a message from the Select Board that the Planning Board should do what the Select Board wants it to do. Planning boards need to be independent, and select boards should not interfere in their decisions and ignore their recommendations to push their own agendas, he said.


Planning Board member Jeff Brown told The Forecaster he was “glad” Whitmarsh defended himself against the Select Board and believes the town should have provided him with a lawyer. He said the hearing “felt like a trial” and could be seen as an attack against the Planning Board.

“To have to look over my shoulder to ensure I don’t wind up being the subject of the next bogus charge to be carried forward by the Select Board because I ask the tough questions and speak my mind is disconcerting,” Brown said in an interview with The Forecaster. “Hiring a lawyer is not in the cards for me.”

Meanwhile, the Select Board voted after the misconduct hearing that Whitmarsh should not continue as chairperson of the Planning Board due to the board’s perception of Whitmarsh’s leadership skills, although he can remain an alternate member.

Select Board members Paul Hodgetts, Amy Haile, Andrea Berry and Kit Maloney did not respond to multiple Forecaster requests for comment over the past two weeks. Town Manager Diane Barnes and Assistant Town Manager Debbie Allen Grover also did not respond to comment requests.

The two complaints made against Whitmarsh involve resident Laurie Bachelder’s proposal for a 12-unit condo project on the corner of Parsonage and Walnut Hill roads in North Yarmouth.

Bachelder first took her project to the Planning Board in September 2022. As an alternate member at the time, Whitmarsh was not allowed to participate in the board’s preliminary vote on the project.


In October 2022, the Select Board appointed Whitmarsh chairperson of the Planning Board. Bachelder’s project came back before the board again.

Whitmarsh, in an interview with The Forecaster, described the events around the Bachelder project that led to his misconduct hearing.

One member of the Planning Board recused himself from voting on Bachelder’s project because of his law firm’s former relationship with her. Later, Bachelder’s attorney asked Whitmarsh to recuse himself as well because of a Facebook post that Whitmarsh had written seven months earlier about the loss of historic homes in North Yarmouth.

“The house that was torn down for Bachelder’s project was a historic home,” Whitmarsh said. 

Although the Facebook post was written before Whitmarsh had any knowledge of Bachelder’s project, the post was seen as a conflict of interest.

Under the advice of town Attorney John Hamer, Whitmarsh asked the Planning Board to vote on whether he should recuse himself, and the Planning Board voted that he should not. Bachelder then filed a complaint with the town against Whitmarsh because he did not recuse himself.


Bachelder did not respond to Forecaster requests for comment.

A second complaint about Whitmarsh was made a few days later. Mark Cenci, the hydrogeologist on Bachelder’s project, cited a heated exchange with Whitmarsh at a Planning Board meeting. Cenci said Whitmarsh acted unprofessionally during their interaction.

“Cenci didn’t care for being questioned,” Whitmarsh said. “He got a little testy, and things got a little heated at one point in one of the meetings.”

When a complaint is filed against a North Yarmouth town official, the official may submit a written request to the town that the complaint be dismissed, Whitmarsh said. If the request is approved, the complaint goes no further. If it is denied, the official must appear in a misconduct hearing before the Select Board.

When he received what he considered to be the groundless complaints, Whitmarsh wrote two letters to the town requesting that they be dismissed. His requests were denied and his hearing was scheduled during a Select Board meeting Aug. 1.

After learning that both Bachelder and the town would have attorneys present at the hearing, Whitmarsh hired his own.


The town should have provided him with legal representation, he said. He submitted a request to the town for reimbursement for $5,000 in legal fees but was denied.

“Kit Maloney, a Select Board member, brought forth that I didn’t have to hire an attorney, and she’s completely correct, I actually put that in my request for reimbursement,” Whitmarsh said. “But when you walk into a room where the person who complained about you has an attorney and the town judging you has an attorney, am I supposed to sit there on my own and hope I do a good job and hope I follow the rules? You’re stuck.”

Although his hearing ended when the town attorney said no further action would be taken, the Select Board voted not to renew Whitmarsh’s position as chairperson.

Whitmarsh, a commercial pilot and U.S. Navy veteran, has served on the board since July 2022 when the Select Board appointed him to to fill a vacancy. When the board chairperson resigned three months later, Planning Board members asked Whitmarsh if he was interested in the role. He was, but the Select Board was opposed, citing bylaws that prevent alternates from being appointed to voting roles.

“Eventually, bylaws were amended to allow alternates to serve as officers on the Planning Board,” Whitmarsh said, and he became the chairperson.

He told The Forecaster he plans to continue to serve on the Planning Board.

This story was updated Aug. 28 to correct the spelling of Mark Cenci’s name. 

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