2013-03-08 / Front Page

Council asks for representation

By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND — Part of the purpose of South Portland’s Blue Ribbon Compensation Committee was to eliminate the tensions, hurt feelings and personal jabs that characterized discussions about councilor health insurance this summer.

If the city council was totally removed from the process of deciding its own pay, councilors said, and instead hired an outsider to handpick qualified community members for the committee, there would be no controversy about the committee’s ultimate recommendation for how much city councilors should be compensated.

However, talks at the council’s meeting on Monday, March 4 proved that eliminating controversy is not that easy.

The city hired Michael Wing, a human resources consultant, in January to handle the selection of committee members from the 14 applicants. Wing chose five members he believed represented the city’s varied interests.

However, a few residents spoke up at Monday’s meeting to express their concern that none of those five were from District 1 in South Portland – despite the fact that a number of interested people from that area had applied. The other four districts of the city were represented.

Many councilors expressed support for the committee to expand to seven members in order to include a District 1 representative, but Councilor Jerry Jalbert strongly disagreed with the idea.

“Suggesting to the consultant the number he has chosen needs to be changed is inserting politics,” Jalbert said.

Jalbert also alleged that former city Councilor Rosemarie De Angelis had brought citizens to the meeting to speak up in support of expanding the committee in order to push her own views into the process. He said in an interview after the meeting that De Angelis’ ultimate goal was to have District 1 resident Daniel Mooers, who Jalbert called a “strong supporter” of De Angelis, placed on the committee.

De Angelis, who was present at the meeting, laughed loudly during Jalbert’s comments. She spoke up during the time allotted for public comment to address his statement.

“I found Mr. Jalbert’s accusation ludicrous, insulting and it should be embarrassing for the council,” De Angelis said.

De Angelis added she does not believe Wing omitted District 1 intentionally, nor does she have a preference as to which District 1 candidate is ultimately placed on the committee.

Even if Mooers is not picked, Jalbert said the council has become too involved.

“The process is already polluted,” Jalbert said.

The council ultimately decided by a 5-1 vote, with Jalbert opposed, to put off the committee appointment for two weeks in order to allow time for Wing to select two more members to make sure all the city’s districts are represented.

Councilor Linda Cohen said there is no way the small committee could represent every interest in a city as diverse as South Portland. However, Cohen voted for the postponement because “District representation has always been the one thing that’s been constant in this city.”

Wing called the criteria he followed to select the committee “nebulous,” but said he did not intentionally omit District 1 and no knowledge about where the applicants lived.

Wing selected David Canarie, Andy Charles, Brian Dearborn, Albert DiMillo Jr. and Carol Thorn to serve on the blue ribbon committee. Canarie is a business attorney at UNUM whom Wing felt could offer corporate experience. Dearborn, a former mayor, councilor and school board member, and Thorn, a former planning board member, bring experience as either former elected or appointed officials, he said. Charles has small business acumen as owner of Haven’s Candies, and DiMillo, a retired CPA, offers the perspective of a “concerned taxpayer,” Wing said.

Besides Mooers, the other applicants who applied were Roger Allen, Leslie Barteaux, James Beougher, Sam Fratoni, Sara Oberton, Richard Rottkov, Taylor Strubell and Natalie West. At least four of those residents are from District 1: Beougher and Fratoni, both of Loveitts Field Road, Rottkov, of Woodbury Street and Mooers, of Ledge Road.

De Angelis said six of the candidates are from District 1, meaning only one remaining combination of two new members would exclude the area.

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