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Greif v. Harbor

Supreme Court of Maine

July 20, 2017

ARTHUR J. GREIF
v.
TOWN OF BAR HARBOR

          Submitted on Briefs: May 25, 2017

          Arthur J. Greif, appellant pro se

          Edmond J. Bearor, Esq., and Jonathan P. Hunter, Esq., Rudman Winchell, Bangor, for appellee Town of Bar Harbor

          Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          JABAR, J.

         [¶1] Arthur J. Greif appeals from a judgment of the Superior Court (Hancock County, Anderson, J.) affirming the decision of the Bar Harbor Town Council declining to conduct an investigatory hearing after receiving a letter from Greif in which he detailed allegations of misconduct by two of the Towns councilors. We conclude that the Council acted properly pursuant to the Bar Harbor Town Charter and Maines Freedom of Access Act, and we affirm the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] The following facts are set out in the administrative record. See M.R. Civ. P. 80B(f); Osprey Family Tr. v. Town of Owls Head, 2016 ME 89, ¶ 2, 141 A.3d 1114.

          [¶3] Greif is a Bar Harbor resident. On January 4, 2016, he sent a letter to five of the Towns seven councilors detailing allegations of misconduct concerning the other two councilors. In the letter, Greif alleged that, in 2013, the two councilors secretly met with the Towns Code Enforcement Officer (CEO) to encourage the CEO to clandestinely monitor another Town employees use of the Town photocopier in hopes of uncovering evidence that the Town employee used the photocopier to conduct his private real estate business. According to Greif, the two councilors planned to report any wrongdoing the CEO observed to the Town manager.

         [¶4] Greifs letter alleged that the councilors actions violated the Town Charter, which prohibits the Town Council or its councilors from giving orders to Town employees. See Bar Harbor, Me., Charter § C-11 (July 1, 2010). Accordingly, Greif urged the Town Council to convene an investigatory hearing to determine whether the councilors conduct violated the Town Charter and consequently warranted forfeiture of their positions on the Council.

         [¶5] On January 5, 2016, one day after the date of Greifs letter, the Town Council held a meeting. While in a regular session, the Council voted 7-0 to enter an executive session "for the purpose of consulting with the Towns attorney concerning the legal rights and duties of the Town in regard to" the Councils receipt of Greifs letter. After approximately one hour, the Council-excluding the councilors who were named in the complaint- reentered regular session and voted unanimously to pursue no further action, concluding "that the alleged facts and circumstances contained in the January 4, 2016 letter do not warrant further review or consideration by the Council."

         [¶6] On January 29, 2016, Greif filed with the Superior Court an appeal in which he sought review of the Councils actions in disposing of the allegations contained in his letter. See 4 M.R.S. § 105(3); M.R. Civ. P. 80B. Additionally, Greif alleged in his complaint that the Town Council violated the provisions of Maines Freedom of Access Act (FOAA), 1 M.R.S. §§ 400-521 (2016), when, he claimed, the Council discussed the substance of his allegations in an executive session closed to the public. The court rejected Greifs FOAA claims and affirmed the actions of the Town. Greif appeals.[1]

          II. DISCUSSION

         [¶7] We review the Town Councils decision "directly for error of law, abuse of discretion or findings not supported by substantial evidence in the record." Osprey Family Tr.,2016 ME 89, ¶ 9, 141 A.3d 1114 (quotation marks omitted). In so doing, we review the ...


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