2012-11-23 / Front Page

Councilor alleges recruitment

By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer

Rosemarie De Angelis Rosemarie De Angelis SOUTH PORTLAND — At her final official meeting on the South Portland City Council, Rosemarie De Angelis accused the incoming District 3 representative Melissa Linscott of being “aggressively recruited” by a group of De Angelis’ fellow councilors.

De Angelis said at the end of the council meeting on Monday, Nov. 19 that councilors Tom Blake, Alan Livingston, Maxine Beecher and Jerry Jalbert sought a candidate to “squash” her voice in an election she said was “grounded in fear, fueled by hatred and intolerance.”

Linscott defeated De Angelis in the Nov. 6 election, earning 7,144 votes, 56 percent of votes cast, to De Angelis’ 5,514.

Linscott said she did speak with the councilors De Angelis mentioned, among others in the community, before she decided to run. But her decision ultimately did not have anything to do with De Angelis.

Melissa Linscott Melissa Linscott “When I was running it was not about me against Rosemarie,” Linscott said. “I was running to run for me, and as an opportunity to serve the city. I didn’t try to look at it as one person against the other.”

The District 3 council race was the only contested municipal race in the city this year. Linda Cohen, who will replace the termed-out Beecher, ran unopposed in District 4. Two school board candidates – Tappan Fitzgerald and Richard Matthews – ran unopposed as well. There was no candidate for the District 4 seat, but incumbent James Gilboy mounted a writein campaign to win re-election.

De Angelis pointed to the fact that her seat was the only one contested as proof that councilors orchestrated an effort to find a candidate to replace her. She noted that Linscott took out election papers on the final day allowed under city ordinance.

“Four (councilors), working together, called everyone they knew in District 3, with some name recognition, who might be convinced,” De Angelis said. “Linscott was simply the first to say yes.”

Linscott disagreed with that interpretation of her motivation to enter the race.

“It was a long process for me to decide, with my family commitment and discussions with my husband about whether it was a good choice to do it at this time in my life,” Linscott said. “It did take up about until deadline for me to come to the decision that yes, I felt it was a good time for me to do it.”

Linscott considered joining the school board as well, before ultimately deciding to run for council because she thought she could make more of an impact as a councilor. She said the lack of candidates in the city was a factor, but that didn’t make it a personal decision.

“I saw a school board and a city council where there were just not a lot of people stepping forward to participate. I’ve witnessed that over time. I just happened to be in District 3, and so did Rosemarie.”

De Angelis also noted a few key moments from her term as councilor to support her point that a group of her fellow councilors had exhibited intolerance. Blake, Livingston and Beecher voted against her appointment as mayor in December 2010. De Angelis noted it was the first time in decades the appointment hadn’t been unanimous, and she called the action “more small-mindedness.”

De Angelis also brought up earlier discussions of council health care benefits, as well as a failed motion to recuse her from voting on a sign permit for the farmers market because of an alleged conflict with market Manager Caitlin Jordan.

The recusal issue sparked a lengthy discussion, De Angelis said, but when Mayor Patti Smith recused herself from a vote supporting same-sex marriage because of her employment with Mainers for Marriage, the council reinstated Smith’s right to vote without hesitation.

Further examples, she said, of councilors “working together with a common mission to silence the voice that questions.”

Beecher, in her closing comments, did not directly respond to De Angelis except to say, “Thank God it’s over,” before she began her comments.

Linscott did not believe “recruit” accurately describes her discussions with councilors before making her decision to run. But she said the point was immaterial because the final say was in the hands of the voters.

“I don’t think it matters. I think it’s a moot point right now. It wasn’t a decision made by the councilors, it was a decision by the citizens,” Linscott said.

De Angelis plans to continue her work in the city as chairman of its bicycle and pedestrian committee, but has not yet decided if she wants to run for re-election to the council next year. Both at-large city councilors, Livingston and Blake, have terms that expire next December.

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