No AG inquiry into Gorham signature case

GORHAM – Verifying authenticity of a town document signature in a Gorham eminent domain seizure several years ago appears uncertain this week after the Maine Office of Attorney General announced it is not handling the case.

“There is no investigation,” Rose Smith, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s office said on Tuesday. Smith would not comment further on why the state was not pursuing the case.

Both Gorham resident Bernard Broder and Town Councilor Benjamin Hartwell recently contacted the state about investigating the validity of a signature on town paperwork in the eminent domain action 12 years ago.

Now, an investigation determining authenticity of the signature or whether a crime might have been committed appears to depend on the Gorham Town Council that postponed action last week, or police.

Broder, a criminal defense lawyer seeking action as a citizen, said in an email to the American Journal he’s meeting with Gorham Police Chief Ronald Shepard Thursday, July 10.

The issue stems from March 2002 when the Gorham Town Council voted to seize Phinney Street Extension for a public road. In court documents of a civil lawsuit recently settled, authenticity of the town’s clerk signature on a certificate of taking came under question.

According to court documents, a handwriting expert hired by two property owners, who filed legal action, raised the signature issue. The property owners in court documents alleged that the town didn’t file the certificate of taking until 2012 sparking their lawsuit against the town. The property owners recently recovered their property through mediation.

The Gorham Town Council on July 1 tabled a measure sponsored by Hartwell asking the board to spend up to $2,500 for a forensic lab test to determine when the document was signed. The council last week decided to delay action on the matter until after hearing from the Attorney General’s office.

Reached Tuesday, Hartwell said another discussion of his verification request is scheduled for the Aug. 5 council agenda.