WINDHAM — Town Councilor Tim Nangle was “aghast” at emails between Council Vice Chairwoman Rebecca Cummings and Planning Board Chairman David Douglass, he said Tuesday night.
The email chain began July 16, 2018, when Douglass asked the council to discuss a traffic issue near Erik’s Church in North Windham.
Then-Council Chairwoman Donna Chapman responded, “we will look at this.”
Douglass emailed all council members March 11 to ask “Has there been any movement on this? (…) Please respond with how we may resolve this … you know action, discussion … something other than the normal ignoring of the issues – progress that’s the word.”
Cummings responded, “This is an unprofessional e-mail. I do not appreciate the way you speak of council. You work for us! I will look into the issue. But, I’m wondering why this wasn’t addressed during the planning board process. In the meantime, I would appreciate it if you could voice your concerns without personal attacks.”
Douglass replied, in part, “Excuse me young lady but I do not work for you either as citizen voicing concern or as a planning board member. Forgive this citizen if he is tired of the way the Town of Windham is run.”
Cummings then copied that email to town attorney Stephen Langsdorf of Preti Flaherty, who said “calling a public official young lady is sexist and ageist and inappropriate.”
At the council meeting March 12, Nangle said he “was aghast” at Cummings’ response and “could not believe that a member of council leadership actually addressed a constituent in that way.”
“Councilor Cummings, the Planning Board, or any other committee, does not work for the Town Council, and you need to understand that. The council only has three employees: the town manager, the assessor and the town attorney,” he continued, asking her to publicly apologize to Douglass.
In an interview Wednesday, Nangle said he took issue with “the overall tone” of the email, adding “Dave has the right to express his opinion.”
Cummings replied Tuesday night, “We’re going to be looking into that matter.”
Nangle also brought up what he called a “back room deal” between a town councilor and a member of the private roads committee that he claimed would undermine the work of the committee.
Chapman said, “There’s no back room deals been done. I had two constituents ask for a meeting with (Interim Town Manager) Don (Gerrish) to discuss her specific issues on her property.”
“We’re going to get some facts straight, Tim. Or we’re going to be in court over this because you keep saying I do things and I’ve said things and I’ve caused a lot of things when the reality is I did not,” she said.
In the interview Nangle said one of the constituents is a member of the private roads committee “that has decided that she doesn’t like the way the committee is going so she’s reached out to Donna and then met with Don.”
Cummings did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
The council Tuesday also received public comment on a proposed amendment to town ordinances that would require that “a qualified independent professional review an application for a project located in the watershed of a lake most at risk from new development to ensure compliance with the site plan or subdivision performance standards for stormwater management, erosion control, sewage disposal, groundwater protection and water quality protection,” according to a memo from Town Planner Amanda Lessard to the Planning Board.
Kim White, Co-Vice Chair of the Highland Lake Leadership Team, thanked the council for considering “what we consider a very important amendment.”
“We see this as a check and balance system and a second set of eyes,” she continued.
Resident Sarah Bronson asked if the amendment was limited only to lakes or if it included ponds and other water bodies.
Lessard said that lakes were the focus of the amendment. Chaffin Pond, Forest Lake, Highland Lake, Little Duck Pond, Little Sebago Lake, Pettingill Pond and Sebago Lake would all be included.
Councilors also voted to approve watershed protection grants for four applicants. The town received five applications asking for a total of $55,000 and has $34,991 to distribute.
The council approved $2,500 for Collins Pond Improvement Association, $14,000 for Forest Lake Association, $13,500 for Highland Lake Association, $5,000 for Little Sebago Lake Association and $0 for Presumpscot River Land Trust because “they get a lot of federal money,” according to Councilor Dave Nadeau.
“I appreciate what all of them are doing. This is the best we have to do right now,” Nadeau added.
The council also officially appointed Lessard as Director of the Planning Department. She had been serving as Interim Planning Director since December 2018.
Councilors offered their thanks and congratulations.
“Congratulations Amanda, and I’m glad to see a woman in a position of power,” Cummings said.
“Amanda, you and I sometimes go a little bit head to head, but I’m excited about this,” Chapman said.
The town is seeking a planner to fill Lessard’s former position, and the deadline for applications is March 22.
Windham is also seeking an engineer after former town engineer Jon Earle left at the end of January. The position was advertised and received two applications.
Lessard said in an interview Wednesday that after interviews, the position was recently offered and not accepted, so the application has re-opened with a deadline of March 29.
Jane Vaughan can be reached at 780-9103 or at email@example.com.