Tension rises, tempers flare at Windham Council meeting

Windham Councilor Jarrod Maxfield speaks during a sometimes contentious Jan. 30 council meeting. 

WINDHAM — Tensions that seemed to be simmering among Windham Town Councilors at past meetings boiled over Tuesday night.

Council Chairwoman Donna Chapman and Councilor Jarrod Maxfield, who were previously heard having a disagreement in the hall coming out of a Nov. 21 executive session, had several contentious exchanges this week’s council meeting.

Things got heated at the dais Tuesday night after councilors voted 4-2 not to appoint former council Vice Chairman David Nadeau to a three-year term on the Planning Board.

Chapman, Vice Chairman Robert Muir, Councilor Rebecca Cummings and Councilor Clayton Haskell voted against Nadeau’s appointment to the Planning Board, as well as his appointment to the Public Easement Advisory Committee.  Maxfield and Councilor Timothy Nangle voted in favor. Councilor Dennis Welch, who was chairman of the previous council when Nadeau was vice chairman, was absent Tuesday night.

Maxfield was clearly not happy and wondered if there was a coordinated decision to oppose Nadeau, who Maxfield called “an asset to this town” with “more knowledge in his pinky than most people sitting here put together.”

“Start asking questions, Windham,” Maxfield said. “Talk about draining the swamp. Let’s start in this room.”

Haskell pushed back against some of Maxfield’s comments.

“I don’t talk with anybody else,” Haskell said at one point.

Chapman later said the friction on display Tuesday night “felt rather personal,” adding “it’s been the undertone for quite some time, unfortunately.”

According to the town’s website, one of seven seats on the Planning Board are vacant, along with a seat held by an alternate.

Nadeau is a former chairman of both the Planning Board and the council.

Town Manager Tony Plante said after the meeting that it was not common but also not unprecedented for such an appointment to be voted down.

“It’s rare. I can recall maybe a couple of times,” said Plante, who started as the town’s manager in 1996.

Chapman said she voted against Nadeau’s appointment because she felt he was “rude and disrespectful” to a couple of constituents during meetings towards the end of his time on the council. She also noted that Cummings defeated Nadeau in the November election.

Cummings said Wednesday she considered Nadeau’s interview with the appointments committee and spoke with people in town. She ultimately believed that “residents would feel more comfortable moving forward” if Nadeau wasn’t involved.

Before the vote on Nadeau’s Planning Board appointment, Nangle expressed his support for his former council member.

“David Nadeau’s been on the Planning Board in the past for a total of nine years, I believe,” Nangle said. “Highly experienced, understands everything regarding lots, planning, all of that. He’ll be a great addition to the Planning Board.”

Haskell had a different point of view.

“Once you’ve been on the council, you’ve gone as far as you go. It’s time to have somebody else step in and do some of this work,” Haskell said after Nangle’s remarks.

Reached by phone Wednesday, Nadeau said he had not yet seen video of the council meeting, but had heard from several people about it.

“Are they that afraid of me trying to help the town move forward?” Nadeau said about the votes. “My only goal is to help the town.”

The disagreement over Nadeau’s appointment was neither the first nor last example of friction between councilors Tuesday night.

During initial councilor comments, Nangle said he had received recent phone calls from people regarding “comments that the chair has made about anger over the pubic works garage passing” in the November election.

“Do you have this in writing, or is this just hearsay, Tim?” Chapman asked.

Towards the end of the meeting, Maxfield said he spoke with a government agency earlier that day about how the council operates. He said after the meeting that the agency he contacted was the Maine Attorney General’s Office.

Friction between Maxfield and Chapman bubbled over again and both expressed an interest in bringing town attorney Stephen Langsdorf into any future discussions about council rules.

“And at that time, I would appreciate it if Jarrod has spoke to another legal entity, that we bring Stephen in …” Chapman said, indicating that she wanted everyone to have the same legal information.

“Oh that’s great, I would actually love to have Stephen here,” Maxfield responded.

“We can go back and forth, Councilor Maxfield, or we can go into executive session with the lawyer, because this has been digressing ever since you’ve been elected,” Chapman said later.

“Oh, I don’t need to. I’m done. This is all going to be public,” Maxfield responded.

“It already is public,” Chapman countered.

Their disagreement continued briefly Tuesday night after the meeting adjourned.

Cummings said Wednesday that disagreements can happen with issues that affect the town.

“At times, tempers can flare,” Cummings said. “It just comes with the territory, I think.”

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or mjunker@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.

Windham Councilor Jarrod Maxfield speaks during a sometimes contentious Jan. 30 council meeting.