WINSLOW — An internal review of whistleblower claims has determined that several Winslow town councilors did regularly meet outside the public eye at the chairman’s private garage, but didn’t discuss town business or violate any open meeting law.

Even so, the investigation found that the gatherings did “create a perception that councilors are meeting privately.”

“The more this practice of informal gatherings at the garage becomes institutionalized, the greater the risk that Maine law is violated by members of the council framing town policy through a series of informal private meetings,” according to a report on the investigation’s findings, conducted by Peter Lowe of the Lewiston law firm Brann & Isaacson, and dated Oct. 5.

“It is a fine line, and in my judgment, this Council risks getting even closer to that fine line unless it changes the practice of informal gatherings.”

The report caps an investigation that was launched in August, after sitting town councilor Jerry Quirion claimed that a voting majority of councilors met multiple times at Chairman Peter Drapeau’s garage to discuss town business.

Peter Drapeau is chairman of the Winslow Town Council. Morning Sentinel file

“It is fair to say that Councilor Drapeau’s garage is an open house — one person compared it to a barbershop,” Lowe’s report states. “Some councilors visited the garage before Councilor Drapeau was elected to the council, and councilors continue to stop at the garage on a regular basis … I did not find evidence that councilors had nefarious motives, or an intent to do business out of the public eye, when visiting the garage.”


The report notes that there were several occasions when a quorum of four councilors met at Drapeau’s garage. A quorum is the minimum number of members required to be present for a group to conduct official business or make decisions.

One such meeting was observed by a witness, who saw councilors Drapeau, Dale Macklin, Jerry Quirion and Jeff West seated at a folding table at Drapeau’s shop in April 2021. However, the report found that the meeting was “an impromptu gathering” in which town business was not discussed.

A quorum of councilors met on another instance, the report says, when four councilors logged onto a virtual council meeting from the garage. Lowe said that he “did not receive any evidence that the four councilors met before or after the council meeting to discuss town business.”

Contacted on Tuesday, Quirion declined to comment, saying he hadn’t had the time yet to read the report.

Though councilors repeatedly met at his shop, Drapeau said in an interview Tuesday that they never made decisions or planned votes outside the public eye. He said councilors’ visits were often sporadic and unplanned, though town business was sometimes discussed.

“As council chair, am I going to talk to the councilors?” Drapeau said. “Once a week? Individually? Absolutely. Again, you can’t do this job and do it correctly in two hours a week. It can’t be done. You’re dealing with a $30 million budget and 200 employees.”


“We never, ever make a decision,” he added, referring to the gatherings at his property. “We just talk about the topics.”

When Quirion first blew the whistle on the meetings, Drapeau denied the allegations and dismissed the claims as part of a personal feud, saying that in order to move the town forward and “get things done,” it’s necessary for two or three councilors to regularly discuss town business outside of council chambers.

Outgoing Town Manager Erica LaCroix declined a request for comment Tuesday, saying “as I answer to the body being investigated, it is inappropriate for me to issue a comment or opinion.”

Winslow officials authorized up to $15,000 to be spent on the law firm’s investigation. LaCroix said Tuesday she had not yet received an invoice for the actual cost.

Councilors had been stopping by the garage for years, according to the report, but “after Councilor Drapeau was elected there has been an increase in the presence of councilors at the garage.” The report elaborated that many of the councilors had made a routine of stopping by the shop, finding that Councilor Joseph Gravel “has gone out to the garage for years,” and that Councilor Dale Macklin visits “almost daily … and stays usually a couple of hours.”

Lowe concludes the report by urging the council stop holding “informal gatherings,” saying that even though they may not be breaking the law, they risk damaging public trust.

However, Drapeau said Tuesday that he and other councilors will continue meeting at his garage, though in smaller numbers.

“We are going to do our best to try to curtail … the amount of councilors that do sit at this table, keep it to one or two,” he said. “But we’re still going to talk.”

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