An investigation has determined that Skowhegan Selectman Harold Bigelow violated town policies outlining the conduct of elected and appointed town officials. Bigelow has been censured by the select board for the conduct. Morning Sentinel file photo

SKOWHEGAN — Select board member Harold Bigelow has been censured in a unanimous vote by the Board of Selectmen, following a town investigation that found he violated municipal ethics by harassing and making inappropriate comments to town staff.

Skowhegan’s Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to censure Bigelow, in a symbolic vote that does not remove him from his duties. Bigelow, who was elected to the board eight months ago, participated in the meeting and joined fellow board members in voting to censure himself.

The board made its decision following an executive session, with Chairperson Todd Smith delivering a statement prior to the censure vote.

“There are some restrictions and rules within the town of Skowhegan’s code of ethics for selectmen to follow and how we represent ourselves,” Smith said. “There was an incident recently which resulted in an investigation and as a result, it was found that there were violations of this code of ethics.”

Bigelow contacted the Morning Sentinel last month to discuss complaints made against him. An investigation into these complaints was conducted by the law firm Eaton Peabody, and on Jan. 24, the results of the investigation were turned over to the newspaper.

According to the investigation findings, Bigelow had six complaints made against him. Of those, four were substantiated by the attorney and of those four, two were found in violation of the ethics code all elected and appointed officials are required to review and sign when they take office

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“(The censure vote) is a statement of disapproval by a board against one of its own,” Smith said Tuesday. “It’s not a removal from the position, nor does it give a member any less of a voice than any other member. No rights are taken away but it is an opportunity for a board to let one of its own know that the other members disapprove of their words or actions.”

Bigelow could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

Two weeks earlier, at the Feb. 8 selectmen’s meeting, Bigelow spoke for around 15 minutes about the investigation and defended himself while criticizing his detractors and town officials.

Bigelow said Feb. 9 that he was under the impression that additional complaints had been lodged against him.

Skowhegan Selectman Harold Bigelow, left, speaks uninterrupted for about 15 minutes during a board meeting Feb. 8, 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. The board voted this week to censure Bigelow. Facebook screenshot

Town Manager Christine Almand confirmed Wednesday that her office has not received any new complaints made against the selectman following the January investigation. That probe found that Bigelow violated the ethics code when he went to the Skowhegan Fire Department following a selectmen’s meeting and “dressed down the Fire Chief in front of his subordinate employees.”

The ethics code outlines that members of the board “must not create the perception of inappropriate direction of Town Staff.” Rather, if a selectman has a grievance with a staff member, “the appropriate avenue to address such an issue is through the Town Manager.”

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Additionally, the ethics code details that selectmen must not interfere with an employee’s duties and “must be respectful and refrain from personal attacks” against town staff.

The second complaint that violated the ethics code happened moments after the exchange with firefighters, when he told the group he had to go because his “Black kids” were in the car, in reference to his dogs.

These comments violated town policies that “prohibit discrimination and harassment based on race.”

Bigelow has maintained in recent weeks that the complaints lodged against him in recent months and the town investigation are attempts by town officials to silence him.

These differences were brought to light in December during a tense public forum in which Smith accused Almand of creating a hostile work environment and a “repeating pattern of behavior” indicating she was being deceptive.

Days later, the same board OK’d a new employment contract for Almand, which included an 18% pay increase over two years. Bigelow was the only selectman to oppose the contract.

“We have a lot working for us in this town,” Smith said following Tuesday’s censure vote, “let’s move forward.”

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