James Moorhead, left, and his husband, Clyne Hodges, carry a Hallowell Pride Alliance banner during the 2021 Hallowell Pride Parade along Water Street. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

HALLOWELL — City officials are investigating training protocols and standardized public safety needs for parades, following claims by members of the Hallowell Pride Alliance that the volunteer Fire Department has failed to fulfill its duties and discriminated against the LGBTQ community.

The claims, first made in June, center on firefighters declining to provide coverage during the annual Hallowell Pride Parade. The issue was rehashed at a recent City Council meeting, after the Pride Alliance said its concerns had not been addressed after several months.

City Manager Gary Lamb said he will meet with police and fire chiefs in November to discuss the public safety needs for parades.

“We will ask the Fire Department for their maximum participation in parades,” Lamb said. “All parades will be treated the same.”

Organizers said that right before this year’s Pride Parade began June 3, they were told of a staffing shortage affecting traffic control and security personnel.

On June 8, Alex AuCoin, the president of the Hallowell Pride Alliance, sent an email to Lamb. Alex AuCoin is the spouse of City Councilor Maureen AuCoin, who is planning to run for Hallowell mayor in the upcoming election.


Alex AuCoin said she asked then-acting Chief Chris Giles of the Hallowell Police Department the reason for the staffing shortage.

“Reportedly, Chief Giles reached out before Saturday to Chief Jim Owens (of the Hallowell Fire Department) for additional assistance with traffic control, and to provide safety for parade participants and attendees. However, he was reportedly informed by Chief Owens that, ‘No one wanted to do it,'” the email read.

Alex AuCoin said she has noticed a similar lack of interest from the Fire Department to assist with previous Pride Parades. She the department did not respond to her requests for assistance with the first Pride Parade in 2019.

“As this was our first parade, I did not pursue further,” Alex AuCoin said.

She highlighted what she said was a similar lack of response in 2021. In 2022, she said, threats on social media targeted the city’s Pride Parade.

Alex AuCoin had asked Scott McMaster, the police chief at the time, for heightened security.


“He said that he had asked (fire) Chief Owens, but he did not have the budget or staff to assist. I asked if that was true for other events, to which Chief MacMaster stated, ‘No, just yours,’” AuCoin said. “Hallowell Fire Department did appear on parade day but had not communicated with any of our organizers, which made line up confusing rather than helpful.”

Participants ride motorcycles or scooters July 17, 2021, at the front of the Hallowell Pride Parade on Water Street. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

Lamb responded to the concerns in an email, explaining that Hallowell has a volunteer Fire Department, and city cannot order the department’s members to do things, including provide traffic control.

Lamb also addressed the claims of bias, writing: “Fire department members have their own opinions, family and work schedules, and it is their right to not participate and not work on the weekend. Different citizens have different opinions on how they approach LGBTQ issues as you know well.”

“We brought the issue to Gary Lamb, and his email was not a good enough response, so we went directly to the City Council,” said Hannah Barry, who wrote a memorandum June 12 to the City Council reiterating the same concerns and demanding action.

Barry, who uses they/them pronouns, is planning to run for the City Council in the upcoming election.

In the memorandum, Barry criticized Lamb for his response and described the Fire Department’s actions as “discriminatory.”


The memorandum prompted a response from Mayor George Lapointe, who, before informing the City Council, spoke with the two chiefs to assess the situation and surmised there was a “miscommunication between the acting police chief and the fire chief.”

The miscommunication to which Lamb and Lapointe pointed was between Giles, the police chief, and Owens, the fire chief. Giles said he had sent an email requesting the Fire Department’s assistance a month before the parade. Owens said he never saw Giles’ written request, and the first time he heard about it was a day before the Pride Parade.

The fire chief “then messaged the department on a Friday and no members responded as available the very next day,” Lamb said. “Some of our volunteers work on Saturdays, and some had previously planned family plans, including our fire chief, who attended his granddaughter’s graduation on Pride Parade day. This was an unfortunate miscommunication between department heads that should not have happened.”

Giles could not be reached for a comment, and Owens declined to speak with a reporter.

“For Mayor Lapointe to deem the Fire Department’s unwillingness to provide public safety at this year’s LGBTQ+ Pride Parade as merely a ‘miscommunication’ disregards a lot of history of disparities and documented bias,” Alex AuCoin said.

April Fenton hands out flags July 17, 2021, in the staging area before the start of the Hallowell Pride Parade on Water Street. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

City officials said they are planning to consult with lawyers to investigate the claims, and further discussions are expected during an executive sessions at the upcoming City Council meeting.


“We are going to discuss how to provide proper training to firefighters to address the implicit biases,” Lapointe said.

Asked if the training would mean the allegations are true, he said, “I am not saying one way or the other, but allegations have been about the past practices, and we want city employees to become more conscious of their biases and work on it.”

In addition to the claims of bias, city officials are also working to address the lack of staffing during parades. The volunteer Fire Department now has 13 members. City Councilors have suggested using tax increment financing, or TIF, funds to hire from neighboring departments to assist with certain events.

Barry predicted a more streamlined process for future Hallowell Pride Parades.

“We are not asking for any more than what the other parades do,” Barry said. “We don’t want an apology. Just that people fulfill their roles and responsibility.”

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