LEWISTON — The City Council unanimously voted down proposals to eliminate the local restaurant inspection program and sanitarian position Tuesday after initially postponing a vote in January.

The proposals, as well as the ensuing debate, have been part of the continuing fallout from the DaVinci’s Eatery closure and removal of Code Enforcement Director Dave Hediger, which has since led to additional staff departures and criticism of city administration.

During public comment Tuesday, city administration faced more criticism and questions about its role in staff turnover.

In January, the council tabled the inspections issue after receiving an overwhelming amount of public feedback in support of the local health inspection program and Sanitation/Code Officer Louis Lachance.

Lewiston is one of only three municipalities in the state that conduct inspections at a local level. Many service industry workers, including several Tuesday, have argued that the local program is fair and that deferring to the state would be a step backward for service.

Paula White told the council that without the local health inspector, it “would’ve been a much more difficult road” to get started in Lewiston.


“He is extremely resourceful and helpful for someone just starting out. He does more than just his job,” she said.

Councilors said that during the past two months, they’ve spoken to countless restaurant owners who have had positive experiences with Lachance.

Council President Scott Harriman said that when the proposal to eliminate local inspections was first presented to the council, it initially “sounded like a good idea,” but that “after hearing from the public, several restaurants and city staff, I’m not in favor.”

Councilor David Chittim said, “We were a brand new council” in January, but councilors have since “asked a lot of questions,” and the answers “reinforced my initial intuition, which is to oppose this.”

This month, several current and former code enforcement staff shared criticism of city administration as staff turnover continues at City Hall, particularly in the wake of the decision to move away from Hediger.

Staff also revealed to the Sun Journal that Lachance has been on a temporary leave, and during that time, the city has been referring inspection requests to the state. Asked two weeks ago, city administration had no comment on Lachance’s status.


The discussion from the public Tuesday referenced the recent comments from staff regarding the reasons for departures, and concerns that the current work environment will lead to more.

During the public comment period, at least two people referenced City Administrator Heather Hunter’s recent statement to the Sun Journal, in which she defended her leadership style at City Hall by saying, “I admit I can be a mama bear when it comes to my work and protecting this $112 million combined city budget.”

Adam Jones, a code officer and president of the Lewiston chapter of the Mane Service Employees Association Local 1989 union, which represents 58 of about 460 city employees, said city staff “are not your offspring, and the union is sure as hell not your bear cub.”

Others attempting to speak with criticism of city administration were cut off due to concerns from Mayor Carl Sheline and other councilors that the public comments were speaking directly to city personnel, which is not allowed under council rules.

Former Councilor Linda Scott began reading a statement that said she has been “overwhelmed” with calls from current and former staff telling her that working under Hunter “has become too toxic and the need for a change is immediate.”

Scott later posted a video of herself reading the statement on social media, which claims that employees are leaving “because they are not valued, supported, respected or protected.”


Former Councilor Luke Jensen was also cut off while attempting to comment about administration, telling councilors they should consult the city attorney to “understand what the rules are” concerning public comments related to staff.

Jensen said sports teams often fire a coach if a season isn’t going well, and “actions have consequences.”

When Jensen specifically referenced Hunter, Councilor Tim Gallant told Sheline “this is a bunch of baloney. When are you going to take charge and stop this?” he asked.

When Jensen attempted to continue his public comment, the timer reached the three-minute limit following considerable debate among officials and Gallant yelled out, “Time.”

Later in the meeting, Harriman questioned what is the mechanism for public concerns about administration.

“We’re not allowed to mention the position during public comment, employees aren’t allowed to talk to us,” he said. “We’re not allowed to talk to employees. Everything has to go through administration.”

Sheline said he planned to speak with the city attorney to “get some guidance on where the line is” regarding comments related to city administration.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.