SKOWHEGAN — The town manager on Wednesday criticized extended comments by a selectman during a meeting this week as “unacceptable” and in violation of town policy.

Selectman Harold Bigelow has been a lightning rod for controversy and a law firm hired by the town recently determined that complaints filed against him showed he violated town ethics rules for elected officials and municipal managers.

Bigelow began a selectmen’s meeting Tuesday with about a 15-minute speech in which he attempted to defend himself by criticizing his detractors and town officials.

Bigelow, who was elected to the board eight months ago, said he was under the impression that additional complaints have been lodged against him and asked Town Manager Christine Almand if that was the case.

Skowhegan Selectman Harold Bigelow, left, speaks uninterrupted for about 15 minutes Tuesday night during a board meeting, listing off a number of grievances he has against municipal officials in the wake of a town investigation that found his behavior violated the town’s ethics code. Town Manager Christine Almand, second from left, listens along with the rest of the board as Bigelow holds up a framed photograph of his late wife while defending himself against suggestions that he made inappropriate comments toward women. Facebook screenshot

At one point he alluded to a pending complaint being about “global warming and climate change” but did not elaborate.

Almand told Bigelow that she didn’t know what he was referring to and said she wasn’t aware of any additional complaints.


She said Wednesday, “What happened last night is unacceptable.”

“The behavior witnessed at the meeting violated multiple policies,” she said. “The other board members, myself and several other employees were attacked without merit.”

Almand said the points Bigelow raised were personnel issues and she could not publicly discuss them.

“This is not how personnel matters should be handled,” she said.

Attempts to reach Bigelow on Wednesday to ask about his actions during the meeting were not successful.

An executive session of selectmen is scheduled for Tuesday to discuss the findings of the January investigation by the law firm of Eaton Peabody.


The firm issued a report that was obtained by the Morning Sentinel on Jan. 24 that detailed six complaints against Bigelow. Of those, four were substantiated by the attorney who led the investigation. Of those four, two were found in violation of the town’s ethics code.

In one instance Bigelow went to the fire station and criticized the fire chief in front of firefighters.

Bigelow on Tuesday spoke at length about details of the investigation before selectmen Chairman Todd Smith tried cut him off, but not before Bigelow brought up a complaint made against him last fall when he was told that a comment he directed at a female town worker made the woman feel uncomfortable.

He previously explained to the Morning Sentinel that he told the worker that she resembled his late wife. He left the office where the woman worked and returned shortly after with a photo of his wife.

“I never made a woman feel uncomfortable,” Bigelow said Tuesday. “I can tell you one thing, this is what made her uncomfortable.”

Bigelow then presented a photo of his wife.


Tension between Almand and Smith was visible during Bigelow’s remarks. Almand was heard repeatedly asking Smith if he was “really going to let this happen.”

Smith said Wednesday that he was surprised that Bigelow “jumped right into it like he did” but saw it as “Harold getting his chance to speak.”

“There’s been a lot of things going on behind the scenes with him with the investigation,” Smith said. “I’ll probably get some criticism for allowing him to speak on certain things and to speak longer. I’ve always been a believer that when people have complaints, they should be addressed at town meetings.”

Tuesday’s meeting, Smith said, was an outlet for Bigelow to bring forward those grievances. Had it been a member of the public, he would have allowed it as well, he said.

Bigelow maintains that the complaints made against him in recent months and the town investigation are attempts by town officials to silence him. He believes that other board members have not stood behind him because they all own businesses in town and don’t want to face retaliation.

Differences between some selectmen and Almand were brought to light in December during a public forum when Smith accused Almand of creating a hostile work environment and a “repeating pattern of behavior” indicating she was deceptive.

This criticism did not halt the board from OK’ing a new employment contract for Almand days after the forum, which included an 18% pay increase over two years. Bigelow was the only selectman to oppose her contract.

“We’ve got a whole new board here. I really think there was a reason for putting a new board up here,” Bigelow said Tuesday. “We’ve got a lot on our plate right now … Once (Almand’s contract approval) happened it hit the fan.”

Bigelow said complaints against him started being lodged after he voted against the contract.

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