OAKLAND — Town officials said they plan to seek an opinion on whether it is legal for a town councilor to vote on matters involving the Oakland Fire Department if the councilor also receives pay for responding to rescue calls on an emergency basis.

Kelly Roderick, a member of the town’s Budget Advisory Committee, raised the issue after town councilors voted Jan. 17 to approve a recommendation by fire Chief David Coughlin to give four career firefighters $1 stipends per hour and be promoted to lieutenants.

David Groder Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal file

Councilor David Groder, a paramedic who responds only if called for emergencies, was promoted to assistant chief in title only as part of the vote and did not receive a raise.

Groder voted to approve Coughlin’s recommendation. Councilor Don Borman was the lone dissenter, saying he thought it better to consider raises as part of the town budget process because more people are involved in the discussion.

Wednesday’s council agenda contained an item for Groder to consider rescinding the vote he took Jan. 17 on the firefighter stipend issue. He opted not to rescind his vote.

Town Manager Kelly Pinney-Michaud said after doing more research, she had concluded Groder did not have to rescind his vote because he had not received a raise as part of the vote, he is not a scheduled town employee and he is paid only on an emergency call basis. It would be detrimental to the town if Groder were stopped from being a responder, Pinney-Michaud said.


Roderick pointed to the town charter, which stipulates a councilor “shall hold no office of emolument or profit under the Town Charter or ordinance. If a councilor ceases to possess any of these qualifications, or is convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than six (6) months, the office of that councilor shall immediately become vacant.”

Resident Anita Chadderton said she wants Groder to remain a first responder because the town needs him. Because Groder gets paid by the town, however, he should not vote on such budget issues, Chadderton said.

Council Chairman Mike Perkins thanked Groder for the “endless hours” he puts in for the town and for “responding to over 90% of the calls out there, seven days a week, 365 days a year.” Groder also is the Augusta fire chief.

Roderick told councilors the town charter, state law and Maine Municipal Code of Ethics say a person serving on a council should not also receive pay from the town.

“He receives pay,” Roderick said of Groder. “I don’t feel he should be a councilor and a firefighter, so one of them has to go.”

Councilor Bob Nutting, who is also a state representative, said an elected official, such as a legislator who is also a teacher, may vote on bills involving teachers’ salary increases “because it doesn’t specifically single out an individual teacher. It is for all the teachers.”


Nutting said that in his opinion, it would be unethical for a town councilor to sell vehicles to the town. He said he thinks the part of the town charter referring to a councilor’s not receiving emolument, or profit, would apply if the councilor were also a town manager, road commissioner, town clerk or held certain other positions.

“Those, in my opinion, are the things that a councilor can’t do,” he said.

Pinney-Michaud said Ella Bowman, the former Oakland town manager who now holds the same position in Winslow, spent time on the issue and got a legal opinion that if a councilor is not a scheduled employee, there is no problem. Pinney-Michaud said if Groder were to rescind his vote, it would set a precedent and the town would have to go back a few years to reconsider other votes he took during that time.

“I don’t want to go there,” she said.

Perkins said the town is expected to seek a legal opinion on the matter in the next week. He said officials plan to pass out copies of the opinion at the next Town Council meeting, scheduled for Feb. 28.

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