Eastport fires city manager and one councilor resigns

In other action, one councilor had an official complaint made against her, a former councilor was denied a committee appointment, and several resignations from city committees were noted.
A statue of a fisherman holding a fish by the ferry terminal in Eastport, Maine
At Eastport Harbor. Photo by Roger McCord.

Eastport City Manager Kate Devonshire was terminated by the city council following a lengthy executive session during the May 10 council meeting.

When they returned to open session, the councillors at first seemed reluctant to speak.

Councilor Floyd “Bub” Andrews at last made a motion to relieve Devonshire of her position and pay her two months’ salary. The motion passed 3-1, with Andrews and Councilors William “Billy” Boone and Colleen Dana-Cummings in favor and Councilor Jeanne Peacock dissenting.

Devonshire has just completed two years as city manager, and the annual review of her performance was on the council agenda. While it was to be conducted during open session, Devonshire requested, before the meeting, that the review be in executive session.

She was the city’s sixth city manager in the past 12 years, with the previous one, Thomas Hoskins, also having been fired by the council, back in January 2021.

Following the meeting, Boone, the council president, declined to comment on the reasons for the city manager’s dismissal. He hoped the council could hold a workshop next week on what steps the city will take to find a replacement.

In other action during the well-attended meeting, one councilor resigned, another had an official complaint made against her, a former councilor was denied a committee appointment, and several resignations from city committees were noted.

At the start of the meeting, the council appointed Boone as the council president and Andrews vice chair, both on 2‑2 votes. The appointment of Boone to replace Peacock, who had been elected president at the January organizational meeting, was a retaking of the vote during the April 12 council meeting.

After the vote, Councilor David Oja resigned from the council, announcing his decision with emotion, and immediately left the meeting. Later during the meeting, the council voted unanimously to advertise for candidates to fill the vacancy created by Oja’s resignation and to thank him for his service.

The council considered an official complaint filed by Laurie Stone against Councilor Peacock for violation of a section of the city charter, which states that officials shall “listen courteously and attentively … and refrain from interrupting other speakers …  or otherwise interfere with the orderly conduct of the meetings.”

In the complaint, Stone alleged that, during the March 8 council meeting at which Peacock was the chair, she interrupted Birdy Velveteen and argued with her and tried to make her stop talking.

At the May 10 meeting, Peacock apologized to Velveteen. In light of the apology, the council deemed no reprimand or sanction was necessary. Later, in the public forum, Stone said she felt this was insufficient and she does not accept Peacock’s apology.

The appointment to the parks and recreation committee of Ross Lawrence, who had been removed from the city council by his fellow councilors at the March 9 meeting, failed for lack of a second.

In the consent agenda, the council accepted several resignations, including of Paul Terrill from the economic development and parks and recreation committees, Mark Wigley from the budget and fiber connectivity committees, Robert Scott from the budget committee and Laura Stanczyk from the cemetery committee.

Other business

During the meeting, a moment of silence was held for former Eastport Police Chief Michael Mullen.

By Zoom, Suzy Shepard of Hoyle Tanner briefed the council on grant applications for apron reconstruction at the airport. The project will be funded 90% by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), five percent by the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) and five percent by the City of Eastport.

While the engineering estimate for the project was $251,725, the low bid, from Sargent Corporation, came in around $453,500. Only two bids were received for the project.

Hoyle Tanner asked the council for approval for their contract for the design and implementation of the project for $167,216, which was unanimously approved. Approval for the contract with Sargent for the actual work will be taken up at a later meeting.

Paige Atkinson, Eastport’s Island Fellow who is working with the city on energy projects, spoke about a Community Action Grant (CAG) for the Municipal Renewal Energy Project, which supports increased energy capacity. Capacity remains the biggest hurdle in Eastport.

The grant will help find funding, advance energy decision‑making and encourage participation in energy‑related discussions.

In a past round, Eastport received a CAG addressing weatherization initiatives. In the next round, the focus will be on local renewable energy projects, such as putting solar panels on municipal buildings to offset electrical costs.

Atkinson also explained the Energy Prize offered by the Office of Clean Energy Development and asked the council for a letter of support, stating that the council sees value in participating with the Island Institute, which will create the application, which is due May 24, and oversee the project if the application is successful. The council voted unanimously to send a letter of support.

An evaluation of local sidewalks to determine Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance was requested from MDOT, but they have notified the council that they do not do ADA reviews. A request has been sent to the Maine Municipal Association but no reply has yet been received.

Peacock reported speaking that Jarrod Farn‑Guillette of MDOT is willing to come to Eastport in the next two weeks to look at the downtown and talk about the Village Partnership Initiative, which could help create a plan. There are federal funds which could provide $9 for every $1 match, which could potentially provide funding for repairs and compliance with ADA.

Two individuals addressed sewer charges. The downtown business owner of 60 and 62 Water Street requested the council combine bills for two sewer accounts, as there is only one sewer line despite two water lines, one to the downstairs location and one to the apartment upstairs, both of which use the same sewer. The council voted unanimously to bill the owner for only one sewer account.

The part‑time homeowner at 15 Dana Street reported that, while he was away, the water company called him and told him his meter was “off the charts” and he would be billed $3,000. A neighbor discovered the water filtration system had failed and water was pouring into the cellar, with the sump pumps sending the water into the storm drain, not the sewer. He requested that his $9,000 sewer bill adjusted to charge only for the minimum this billing cycle, which the council approved unanimously.

Victoria Ganz of the airport advisory committee requested council approval for Eastport to become a branded fuel farm with Titan Aviation Fuels, which has already conducted a safety inspection that the airport passed. The council unanimously approved going with Titan for fuel services.

The council voted unanimously to remove elected councilors as signatories from all bank accounts and to add two deputy treasurers, as recommended by the MMA. Ella Kowal and Donnie Peters were approved as deputy treasurers and are authorized to sign checks but not warrants.

Motions also passed unanimously to authorize the city clerk to schedule public hearings for all liquor license applications, special entertainment licenses and victualer licenses provided all requirements of filing and notice are met.

After some discussion, the council voted to hold two briefings by the budget committee, one on May 31 and one on June 6, both at 6 p.m. in the Shead library. A public hearing on the budget will follow on June 14 at 5 p.m.

A vote on carrying forward unspent funds to FY2023 split 2‑2, and the motion failed to carry. No other action was taken.

A discussion was held about allowing all airport committee members to vote, whether or not they live in Eastport. The council voted unanimously to allow one‑third of the airport committee members to be non‑resident voting members.

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This story was originally published by the Quoddy Tides, and is republished here with permission. 


Catherine J.S. Lee, Quoddy Tides

Catherine J.S. Lee is an internationally-known haiku poet and the author of the short-fiction collection Island Secrets: Stories from the Coast of Maine (Sea Smoke Press, 2022). She is a book reviewer for The Quoddy Tides.
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