DIXFIELD – A Planning Board member defended himself against a resident’s complaint of bias at Monday evening’s selectmen meeting.
Town Manager Carlo Puiia said Donald Lutick filed an official complaint against Lauren Hebert, alleging Hebert is biased against wind development in Dixfield and shouldn’t be editing the Wind Energy Facility Ordinance.
The Planning Board is revising it after voters rejected it June 9.
Puiia said that normally a complaint against a town official is handled in an executive session.
“In this particular case, Mr. Hebert said he wanted to discuss it outside of an executive session,” Puiia said.
Lutick’s complaint said Hebert voiced his disagreement with wind development in town since 2012 and has continued to do so since being appointed to the Planning Board.
“Someone with such strong, personal feelings toward wind development shouldn’t be included on a board responsible for rewording and editing the ordinance,” Lutick wrote.
Hebert said Lutick’s main point of contention is that “my opinion doesn’t agree with his opinion.
“That’s fine with me,” Hebert said, reading from a prepared statement. “When faced with a critical issue that so powerfully effects all of the citizens, such as a wind project, the Board of Selectmen should fill positions on the Planning Board with people that can debate both sides of that issue. This allows for each side to offer spirited and studied opinions to encourage sound debate and well-represented decisions. Both sides must be heard.”
“The issue of the complainant is that I’m biased,” he continued. “Yes, of course, I’m biased. By now, most every citizen is biased one way or another on this issue. Removing those from the board who are anti-wind is not appropriate and fails to allow representation of all of our citizens. It is not ethical governance,” his statement said.
After Hebert read his statement, Board of Selectmen Chairman Hart Daley said he agreed with Hebert.
“(Wind development) has been a divisive issue in our town,” Daley said. “It’s split our town in half, and we’ve been in a balancing act in protecting the rights of our citizens and protecting the rights of industry. However, we’ve all voiced our opinions at one time or another, and we have a right to voice our opinion. As long as we keep it professional, there’s no reason we can’t speak our minds about the issue.”
Puiia told selectmen and residents he read an article in Maine Townsman magazine recently that defined “biased” as pertaining to someone having a financial interest in an issue that they’re voting for or against, or voting for or against something for personal reasons.
“The word ‘bias’ has a broad meaning that sometimes gets misused or misinterpreted,” he said.
Selectman Dana Whittemore agreed. “I feel like there are certain words being thrown around a lot, and their meanings are being watered down,” he said.
He used the words “bias” and “unethical” as examples.
“People use these words and are crying wolf far too often with them,” Whittemore said. “It’s a shame.”
Daley also balked at people calling Hebert and other people against wind development as “anti-wind.”
“It’s not necessarily that we’re anti-wind,” Daley said. “I see it as being ‘pro-property rights,’ or ‘pro-health and safety.’”
Patriot Renewables LLC of Quincy, Mass., approached Dixfield officials five years ago about constructing wind turbines on Col. Holman Mountain ridge.
The town’s original ordinance passed in November 2012 and a revised ordinance was was narrowly defeated in November 2014. In February, selectmen voted to put the Planning Board’s original draft on the June 9 ballot, and that also was defeated.
Among the issues with it are the allowable sound limits for daytime and nighttime.
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