HALLOWELL — The Hallowell city manager, who was recently disciplined for his inadequate response to concerns raised by local members of the LGBTQ+ community, was also investigated several months earlier over complaints that he mismanaged a city employee.

The investigation into City Manager Gary Lamb’s oversight of former public works foreman Chris Buck who resigned months after police arrested him for drunken driving — cost taxpayers about $20,000 and has not been publicly disclosed.  

The City Council ordered the investigation in March of last year and discussed it at three executive sessions, on April 5, May 4 and May 9, Lamb recently told the Kennebec Journal, after a reporter inquired about the city’s overspent legal budget.

Hallowell spent $58,407 in legal fees during the fiscal year that ended on July 1, which is more than double the $25,000 it had budgeted.

City councilors and an attorney hired to complete the investigation last spring repeatedly refused to confirm whether an investigation was underway or return messages about the executive sessions at the time.

Disclosure of the investigation — which did not result in any discipline — comes amid a deepening wedge between Hallowell’s elected officials and the city manager.


“This past winter, questions surfaced about some inter-related personnel issues and the process I followed for dealing with those issues,” Lamb said recently, in a written response to questions sent by the Kennebec Journal. “There was an investigation into those personnel issues, including into how I, as City Manager, approached dealing with those issues.”

Hallowell City Manager Gary Lamb Contributed photo

The attorneys’ fees related to the investigation are estimated at about $20,000, Lamb wrote.

When asked for documentation of the outcome of the investigation, Mayor George Lapointe said the council did not issue a warning or impose disciplinary action against Lamb.

In Maine, disciplinary actions against government employees — and the written decision explaining the reason for those actions — are public. If an official is not disciplined after an investigation, documents related to the case can be shielded under state law as confidential personnel information.

In November, Lamb was disciplined by the City Council for his response to a complaint by the Hallowell Pride Alliance about the city’s volunteer fire department not staffing the annual LGBTQ+ Pride parade.

“Different citizens have different opinions on how they approach LGBTQ issues, as you know well,” Lamb told the Pride Alliance, in defending the fire department’s decision to not provide coverage of the parade.


That response “contained misleading and irrelevant information, and that ultimately came across as inflammatory and defensive,” the council wrote.

The council’s letter to Lamb concluded: “Gary, as you know, this is not the first time that the council has raised with you concerns relating to your communications as City Manager. Our hope is that going forward, we will see significant improvement in your communication style. Please understand, however, that if similar issues continue to arise, the council may need to take further action.”

The investigation last spring appears to clarify some of the ongoing issues the council mentioned.

It dealt with events going as far back as July 3, 2022, when Buck, the public works foreman, was arrested at the city’s public works garage and charged with driving under the influence. Although Buck was on vacation when he was taken into custody, he was at City Hall earlier that day to unlock the building for Hallowell’s Fourth of July celebration, according to court records.

At the time of his arrest, Buck’s blood-alcohol content was .26, which is more than three times the state’s limit of .08. Buck resigned three months later, after using 400 hours of paid time off he had accrued.

“The legal advice was to just be patient and let the court proceed,” Lamb said. “The resignation was going to happen anyway. There wasn’t any legal advice needed for that.”


Another incident involved Buck being in possession of a city-owned tractor he used for personal purposes.

When asked if Buck stole the tractor, Lamb said: “No, I wouldn’t say it got stolen, just used at his house for a while,” adding that it is not usual for anyone to take city property home without permission for personal use.

“There were no complaints about his behavior,” Lamb said, when asked whether there were any performance issues with Buck or complaints received about him. “Of course you get concerns about how a certain pot hole was not filled properly, but otherwise no complaints.”

Earlier this month, Buck had his operating under the influence charge dismissed after completing a court-ordered treatment program. Buck pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of driving to endanger, in exchange for abstaining from alcohol for six months, undergoing a substance use evaluation and meeting other terms.

Lamb said there has been no communication between him and Buck since the latter’s resignation.

“We got him the help that he needed. I haven’t seen him in eight or nine months,” Lamb said. “He was obviously sick, and I hope he’s doing well.”

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