HALLOWELL — City councilors will be able to view documents regarding a police officer’s sexual assault allegation against Chief Eric Nason, the council decided Wednesday.

Earlier this month, Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney agreed to give the city Maine State Police reports from their investigation of Nason, which stemmed from a female Hallowell police officer’s sexual assault allegation against Nason in June 2013.

In October, the case was closed with no charges filed against the chief. Nason, 48, was never disciplined by the city, and the officer, now 22, was promoted to full-time status shortly before the state police investigation ended.

The Maine State Police have denied requests from the Kennebec Journal for police reports and other accounts of the case, saying they are confidential under a privacy exemption in Maine public records law.

The newspaper sued the state for the documents in Kennebec County Superior Court in June, saying the public’s interest in a city official’s conduct and investigation trumps those privacy concerns.

However, Maloney gave the documents to Hallowell, saying she “wanted to be responsive” to the city’s request since it involved their employees. In the city’s hands, the files are shielded from public view because Maine law keeps most personnel information confidential.

In a 4-3 vote at a meeting Wednesday evening, councilors decided to allow themselves and Mayor Mark Walker optional access to the documents, an idea put forward by Councilor Alan Stearns.

The vote came at the end a special council meeting almost entirely comprising a nearly two-hour executive session about two weeks after the city hired a private investigator to examine a second woman’s sexual misconduct allegation against Nason.

After the vote, Stearns said he will view the documents regarding the state police case, saying “the council faces several difficult decisions over the next few months.”

“I think the residents of Hallowell will have more confidence in our decisions if there are more people engaged with review of the key documents,” he said.

Walker’s request for the case files, made in a June letter to Maloney, said only four officials, he, Starn, City Attorney Erik Stumpfel and Councilor George Lapointe, head of the city’s personnel committee, could see the documents. But Maloney said last week that she’s OK with more councilors seeing them, as long as they’re kept private.

Aside from Stearns, Lapointe and councilors Phillip Lindley and Lynn Irish voted to allow further council access. Councilors Robert Stubbs, Lisa Harvey-McPherson and Mark Sullivan voted against it.

Stubbs wouldn’t comment on why he opposed the measure after the vote. Lapointe said he won’t view the documents since he chairs the personnel panel, which acts as a board that hears employee grievances.

Irish and Lindley, who is the council president, said they hadn’t decided on whether or not to see the files. However, Lindley said he’s leaning toward seeing them.

“If we’re going to make a decision on issues down the road, I need to have a little more detail,” he said. “So, I need to think about having that detail.

“The assumption is, that detail is in that investigative report.”

Michael Shepherd — 370-7652

[email protected]

Twitter: @mikeshepherdme


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