Sunday, February 9, 2014

New directions & palace intrigue


Two days ago, that being Friday, February 7th, the Ostrich led with a front page, above the fold article entitled “Councilors, developers decry ‘secret meeting’”, written by Bob Mentzinger, identified as ‘Times Record Staff’ in the byline.  As chance would have it, we had written about Mentzinger just the other day.

He responded with this comment, using the pseudonym ‘PemWhataName,’ a particularly mature nom-de-plume.

Real easy to trot out lies and slander when youre an anonymous blogger hiding behind a psuedonym. At least some of us are accountable

Mentzinger, as we told you, is the current ‘managing editor’ at the Ostrich.  Just today we learned that Gina Hamilton is now the editorial page editor at the same publication.

Gina is just another example of the musical chairs phenomenon in Maine’s print media.  Not too long ago, she was the top dog at the Coastal Journal.  Somehow she just sort of disappeared from that slot, and the CJ is now on at least the second generation of replacement for her.

She used whatever editorial discretion she had in that role to make the CJ a thoroughly progressive weekly, drawing often upon her uncle, former Congressman Lee Hamilton, to provide ideological rationale for her point of view.

When the CJ no longer felt the need for her services, she drifted around looking for other purpose.  Apparently, the music stopped when she was hovering over the Ostrich chair.  Unless Gina has moved into town from her ‘Turning Tides Cottage,’ she joins the list of Ostrich op-ed page editors with no personal stake in Brunswick town affairs and governance.

Speaking of which, let’s get back to Friday’s top of the fold article.  Here are the opening words:

Town Council Chairman Benet Pols held a closed-door meeting with an engineer and two developers asking them to reconsider their plan to build a road at Cook’s Corner.

The Jan. 29 Town Hall meeting — confirmed by two participants who said they had not been previously notified of it — rankled some councilors, who said it’s not their job to approach applicants who have official business before the town.

The article is just a shade less than 1500 words, far longer than just about anything we can remember.  That’s the equivalent of two full length commentaries on the opinion page.

Long-winded bloviator that we are, we thought about discussing the article and it’s assertions and innuendos at length.  But then we realized we might come at it with a series of questions.  So here they are.

  • Since the subject meeting occurred on Wednesday, January 29th, why did it take until Friday, February 7th to report on it?
  • Who is it that contacted ‘Times Record Staff’ Bob Mentzinger to report on the meeting, and provide enough information to ignite his interest in the story?
  • Why did this story take ten days to make the news?
  • Why was Mr. Manager on vacation on the day the story appeared?
  • How does the story relate to the special town council meeting scheduled for this coming Monday, February 10th, to discuss Mr. Manager’s severance and release agreement?
  • Has councilor Jerry Favreau retired from his designer job at BIW, or did he get a call from someone to suggest he should leave his desk and come to the Town Hall to check his mail at just the right time?
  • Could Council Chair Benet Pols be an instigator in not asking Mr. Manager to not resign?
  • If a Council Chair, say Benet Pols, chooses to engage in a discussion with local developers, does two other councilors showing up in the middle of that meeting turn it into a public meeting in violation of state law?
  • If the two other councilors were not originally invited to that meeting, how did they find out about it?
  • Why did Council Chair choose to meet with Jim Howard and George Schott?  Could he have been inquiring about the role of Mr. Manager in prior discussions and negotiations in recent years?
  • Could what he learned in these discussions have led to the call for a special meeting this coming Monday to take further action regarding Mr. Manager’s tenure with the town?
  • Is it possible that Mr. Manager may have had more than an administrative interest in the development plans of Howard and Schott?
  • Does Councilor Watson have a clue?
    • “I felt it was very disenchanting — and I’m being nice — to think that a fellow councilor would hold a closed-door meeting on things that are vital to my district,” Watson said.
  • Do the words in this passage reflect the opinions of the principles in the meeting, or of those who somehow came into things ‘later’ because of serendipity, or more likely, a call from ‘someone?’
    • For their part, the developers — Jim Howard, president and CEO of Priority Real Estate Group, and George Schott, CEO of Schott Development — were “upset” by the meeting, and by Pols’ request, according to two officials who participated belatedly in the meeting.


  • Note how the following passage is loaded with non-specifics; if this is the current standard at the Ostrich, what else do you need to know?.
    • Participants in the meeting weren’t necessarily against Pols’s proposal, but they were miffed at the vehemence with which he advanced it.  One participant called Pols’s demeanor “patronizing,” “condescending” and “very dismissive” of the developers’ concerns — chiefly, that the project currently on the table be pursued, as it had the best chance of leveraging business development in Cook’s Corner.


  • We’re not here to defend Pols.  None-the-less, if you read the article carefully, you see no direct quotes from Howard or Schott.  The accusations of improper or illegal behavior all stem from ‘'unnamed participants,’' who we take to be Dave Watson and Jerry Favreau.


  • Both are on the record as not supportive of Mr. Manager’s non-resignation.  So we wouldn’t be surprised if you were to be suspicious of their role in this ‘intrigue.’
  • We are impressed with their final words on the subject:
  • On the role of Town Council chairman, Watson — who has represented District 1 for the past 12 years — said “they are not, and should not, be acting as town managers, admninistrators, or anything.”

    The role of chairman, said Watson, is to run meetings and establish an agenda for meetings.

    Favreau agreed. “The process is broken,” he said, and he promised “I’m going to be vocal” at upcoming forums in which the road is discussed.

The last passage in the article is this:

One of those forums — a Town Council workshop on the project slated for Monday, Feb. 10 — is being postponed, Pols said, because of other pressing issues, such as the selection process for hiring a new town manager.

We can only wonder what lies ahead.  Rot, deterioration, and finger pointing. we suppose.

And then there’s The McLellan.

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