2014-12-12 / Front Page

Manager recants public comments

By Duke Harrington
Staff Writer

ARUNDEL — While it is not unusual for public employees to say things they wish they had not, it’s far less common to see one offer an official retraction.

Yet that’s just what Arundel Town Manager Todd Shea did on Monday. Shea recanted all comments he made at the Nov. 10 board of selectmen meeting, following a Nov. 4 ruling by Maine Supreme Judicial Court in the town’s favor in its ongoing case against Dubois Livestock, Inc.

Arundel has been in a protracted debate with Dubois over composting operations at its 6-acre site. Ongoing since the early 1980s, the composting has more recently become a nonconforming use on the property following zoning changes. Since 2011, the Dubois family has refused to allow municipal inspectors on site, claiming the local permitting requirements for their operation are at odds with state law, which, it argued, holds jurisdiction. Much of the protracted legal debate centered on what constitutes a “farm.”

At the Nov. 4 selectmen’s meeting, Shea said in the wake of the court ruling — which said the local ordinance applies because it is not stricter than or inconsistent with the state Solid Waste Act — the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) “is going to start actively pursuing them [Dubois].”

That generated a stern seven-page rebuke signed by four principals at Dubois Livestock and Excavating, which called Shea “a liar, a fabricator, and a fraud,” among a host of other epithets.

“I will not go point-by-point through the letter,” said Shea, on Monday. “I will just officially recant any and all statements I made at the meeting on Nov. 10.”

Selectmen let the matter pass in silence, asking no questions and offering no comment.

“There’s only so many comments I can say about this without getting myself into more of a situation,” said Shea, after the meeting. “I’m not a confrontational individual and I don’t want this to turn into a legal battle.

“I personally don’t feel I said anything wrong,” said Shea. “In the conversations I had at the board level, I feel I fairly represented what was told to me by the DEP. I think my comments were taken to an extreme in their letter.”

In that letter, the four Dubois directors — Rick, Randy and Marcel Dubois, as well as Sol Fedder — demanded the retraction, writing to Shea: “Be assured, that we are most certainly considering suing you, personally, for your deplorable, defamatory and false statements about us, and [the] Dubois Farm, which went far beyond the scope of your employment.”

The letter goes on to call Shea “vindictive, malicious and arrogant,” and calls his summary to selectmen of his conversations with DEP “egotistically self-serving.”

“We’ve seen several letters like this directed at municipal officials from this individual,” said Shea, adding that he hopes by recanting his statements it will avoid contributing to a distraction from the business at hand.

That business includes arranging for a municipal inspection of the Dubois operation. Shea said selectmen plan to meet in executive session with the town attorney and code enforcement officer, at a date to be scheduled, to map out how to proceed.

The Dec. 1 Dubois letter says the company “will not be responding to general questions about the composting operation.” According to court documents, Dubois composts “horse and cow manure, horse and cow bedding and fish waste (including fish, shellfish entrails, shells and bones) none of which are generated onsite.” It is limited to receiving not more than 29,000 tons of material, annually.

Dubois Livestock says it allows no one else from the town of Arundel on the property other than the town planner and the code enforcement officer, and will record any comments they make during their upcoming site inspection. In their letter, the Dubois directors acknowledge they must now supply composting data and submit to a municipal inspection. However, they say they “expect and absolutely demand” the town recognize their classification as a “farm,” and that their compsting operation qualifies as “agriculture.”

“Your failure and that of the town of Arundel to do so would cause us damage and force us into another litigation for which we will seek, among other things, substantial damages,” they wrote.

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