The town of Anson plans to appropriate up to $40,000 from an insurance claim it was awarded earlier this year to cover unanticipated legal and audit fees resulting from an investigation into $438,712 in missing excise taxes at the Town Office.

The spending was approved Tuesday at a special town meeting, along with changes to the town’s mass gathering ordinance, according to Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Arnold Luce. About 12 people attended the meeting at the Garret Schenck Elementary School.

Luce said no opposition was voiced about either item and that the meeting was “over in about four minutes.”

As of Nov. 25, the town had spent $48,843 on auditing and legal fees resulting from an investigation into the missing excise tax money — more than $30,000 over the amount budgeted at last spring’s Town Meeting.

Former Tax Collector Claudia Viles has been charged with 13 offenses by the Office of the Maine Attorney General in connection with the missing money.

She has pleaded not guilty to the charges against her, and the case is scheduled for possible trial in 2016.

The money appropriated at Tuesday’s meeting will come from a $250,000 insurance pay-out that the town was awarded in July after filing a claim alleging that employee misconduct had led to the disappearance of more than $400,000 in missing town funds.

The $250,000 is in the town’s reserve account and will stay there for now, Luce said. He said the money — which represents a portion of the missing excise taxes — could have lowered taxes over the last few years, had it been deposited in town accounts at the time it was collected.

The town has filed a civil lawsuit against Viles that could yield a larger settlement, and Luce said town officials will wait until after the case is closed to determine what will be done with the money that has been recovered.

“We’re just going to wait and see probably until the case is over and then see what the townspeople want to do with it,” Luce said. “(The money) is all good sitting right where it is.”

He said there is no way of knowing whether the town will recover more money, but that it is possible. An attorney for Viles has requested that the civil case be put on hold until after the criminal case against her is resolved. That case also has been delayed because of the volume of evidence to be reviewed.

Residents also agreed to change the ordinance on mass gatherings after a landowner proposed holding a bluegrass music festival on Four Mile Square Road.

The ordinance regulates gatherings of more than 500 people, with the exception of athletic fields, stadiums or other facilities that already are equipped to handle large crowds.

The ordinance before Tuesday’s changes required a bond or security deposit of at least $5,000 for mass gatherings, but the changes make that required only for gatherings in public places.

The previous ordinance, passed in 2003, also did not allow mass gatherings at night, but the new one allows nighttime gatherings as long as at least 40 square feet per person is provided for camping.

Safety and medical requirements were also changed, including allowing the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office to determine the number of officers needed at a mass gathering for crowd and traffic control, as opposed to the 15 required in the previous ordinance.

The old ordinance also required that organizers notify area hospitals of the mass gathering. The new one requires notification only to the Anson-Madison-Starks Ambulance Service.

“The way it’s written now, the ordinance kind of deters (mass gatherings) from happening,” Luce said last week. “But we haven’t had a lot of issues with mass gatherings, so I think it makes sense to amend some of the stuff that’s in there.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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