AUGUSTA — A grand jury on Thursday indicted former Chelsea Board of Selectman Chairman Carole Swan on charges related to soliciting kickbacks from a town snowplow contractor, and a prosecutor said her actions remain under scrutiny.
The indictment is the formal start of a criminal case against Swan, 53, and she will be asked to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty to the four charges at an arraignment in Kennebec County Superior Court.
Swan’s attorney, Lenny Sharon, said Thursday night that they plan to “aggressively challenge the state’s case and the inferences that have been raised.”
The date of the arraignment was not available late Thursday, but an Aug. 9 status conference in her case has been canceled as a result of the indictment, according to a court clerk.
Swan was in court March 11 to hear the charges against her when they were filed, but she was not asked to enter a plea at that time. She is free on $25,000 cash bail.
An indictment is not a determination of guilt, but it indicates that sufficient evidence is present to proceed with formal charges and a trial in Superior Court.
Swan was indicted on four charges:
• aggravated forgery, a Class B felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine, alleging that she falsified a public record on Feb. 1;
• attempted theft, a Class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison or $5,000 in fines, alleging she authorized a $22,075 check from the Town of Chelsea to pay for a fraudulent invoice on Feb. 3;
• two counts of improper compensation for services, alleging she solicited or accepted money in return for promoting a contract while she was a public official.
Those accusations stem from incidents occurring on or about Sept. 24, 2009, and Jan. 25, 2010.
The latter two charges are class E misdemeanors, which are each punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
“The investigation is continuing at the state and federal level,” said Deputy District Attorney Alan Kelley.
Sharon has said Swan was conducting her own investigation when she allegedly accepted kickbacks from plow contractor Frank Monroe, of Whitefield.
Monroe told police in February he paid Swan $3,000 and $7,000 on separate occasions in 2010, and was being asked to inflate a bill for road sand so she could receive $10,000.
The Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office set up a sting in which Monroe paid Swan, and taped a transaction in which Monroe handed an unknown sum in marked bills to her. Kennebec County Sheriff Randall Liberty has said Swan was later arrested with the cash in her car.
On Thursday, Swan’s attorney said his client “is anxious to finally begin her defense and is looking forward to the opportunity to review the discovery. We are well into conducting our investigation but now will be able to guide our private investigator once we review the discovery. We are planning to aggressively challenge the state’s case and the inferences that have been raised.”
In May, Sharon told reporters Swan’s actions were a way of conducting an investigation of her own to see if Monroe was overcharging the town.
In the early years of Swan’s 19-year tenure as a town selectman, Swan helped authorities with their investigation into Doris Reed, former assistant town manager and tax collector who embezzled more than $250,000 from the town’s excise tax fund between 1988 and 1992. Reed served four years in prison and died in 2004.
Liberty has also said Swan’s husband, Marshall, is being investigated over allegations he attempted to circumvent the town’s purchasing ordinance.
The accusations say Marshall Swan Construction allegedly received favored treatment for town road work while Carole Swan was in office. Her term ended June 30.
The Swans were at a selectman’s meeting Wednesday night, answering and asking some questions about contracts.