Boothbay still awaiting lawsuit notification

Town officials won’t comment until served
Posted:  Thursday, December 28, 2017 - 5:00pm

Boothbay selectmen have heard about it, but they won’t comment on it. At least, until the town has been served with court documents notifying it about a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Portland.

On Dec. 20, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens filed a federal lawsuit claiming Boothbay violated the Gardens’ U.S. civil rights by revoking a permit for its expansion project. Two days earlier, the appeals board voted 3-2 to revoke the permit. In the lawsuit, CMBG claims the appeals board acted in a biased manner and violated CMBG’s 14th Amendment rights to due process.

A week later, town officials still haven’t received federal court documents indicating a federal lawsuit has been filed. “We’ve read about it in the Bangor Daily News and Boothbay Register. I even saw something on the Channel 6 evening news, but we still haven’t been notified,” said Selectman Steve Lewis during the Dec. 27 board meeting. “It’s hard to comment on something that we haven’t seen so we will wait before making any comment.”

Once the town is notified, Town Manager Dan Bryer will schedule a meeting between selectmen and the town attorney to project what legal expenses the town may incur through July 1, 2018 due to the lawsuit. The fiscal year began with $30,000 in the municipal legal  account.

The town has paid two law firms for advice during the Gardens’ expansion project. Reviewing municipal records for Dec. 6, 2016 through  Sept. 30, 2017, the Boothbay Register found that two law firms devoted 75.1 total hours to advising Boothbay on the CMBG planning board application and Anthony family appeal.

In the 10-month span, records indicate municipal legal costs for CMBG permit-related expenses were $10,125.29. From Dec. 6, 2016 to March 8, 2017, the Jensen Baird law firm worked 27.5 hours and billed $5,176 for legal services and $136.81 for other expenses. All but 45 minutes of the billable hours were related to either the CMBG permit application, Boothbay Region Water District’s request in Superior Court seeking a temporary restraining order on the expansion project, or the Anthony family’s Freedom of Information Act request.

During the appeals board hearing, another Portland firm was hired. Murray, Plumb & Murray lawyer John Shumadine advised the appeals board between Jan. 13 and Dec. 20, 2017. According to town documents ending Sept. 30, Murray, Plumb & Murray worked 48.2 hours on the appeals board hearing and billed $4,599 for legal services and $213.48 for other related expenses.

In other action, selectmen voted 3-0 approving two $1,000 Ulmer Fund requests for two Boothbay Region High School students who are taking a class trip next year. Elizabeth Ham is traveling to Germany as part of the school’s German American Partnership Program. Hannah Gentry is traveling to Nicaragua and Costa Rica. The Ulmer Fund is a special program designed for Boothbay students furthering their high school education.

Selectmen will meet next at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 10, in the municipal building’s conference room.