WINSLOW — The last few months have been life or death for Lee Trahan.

Trahan, a town councilor since 2018, briefly entered a coma in April as the result of an infection. He required emergency surgery and was placed on a ventilator before being held for several weeks in the intensive care unit at Bangor’s Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center.

Lee Trahan Courtesy photo

As Trahan recovered at the hospital for more than a month, he was left unable to attend to his usual duties as a town councilor. His absence while he recovered prompted several other councilors to look into vacating his seat.

The effort to remove Trahan happened mostly over email, meaning the public was not privy to councilors’ discussion of town business. Since one resident requested records of the emails this week, councilors have largely dropped the push to vacate Trahan’s seat.

In a series of emails obtained by resident Derrick Record through a Freedom of Information Act request, Councilors Mike Joseph and Fran Hudson questioned Trahan’s cognitive function and ability to govern, sought information on his medication and admonished him for his supposed conduct.

Joseph questioned Trahan’s “ability to vote on anything” in an email to Town Attorney William A. Lee, Town Manager Ella Bowman and all councilors except Trahan.


Joseph said in the email that he saw Trahan “licking something off the screen” and “falling asleep” during a May 28 council meeting Trahan attended via Zoom.

Mike Joseph Courtesy photo

Joseph requested information about the medication Trahan was taking the following week, asking Trahan’s treating physician for a statement saying he was not taking any medications that would interfere with his cognition. Hudson questioned whether Trahan could “vote legally possibly due to medication” in an email to Lee the following day.

“I believe, to save face in this council, we should have a doctor’s view of the medication that [redacted] may be taking that would affect his judgement in any decisions,” Joseph wrote in a May 29 email. “I believe we should have the doctors give us a paper saying that the drugs he may be taking does not affect [redacted]’s decisions to vote.”

In an email reply to Joseph dated June 4, Bowman said the council should be supporting Trahan’s recovery rather than inhibiting it. She added that she believes councilors were looking to vacate the seat for political gain.

“We should be celebrating his recovery and encouraging his participation in our meetings,” Bowman wrote. “The lack of empathy for another human being who proudly serves the Town of Winslow as a person who has special needs is concerning.”

The emails also raised concerns among residents about municipal officials legislating in private, as the messages were sent to a quorum of Winslow’s councilors.


A quorum is the minimum number of people required to be present for a group to conduct official business or make decisions. Because Winslow has seven councilors, four constitutes a quorum.

Fran Hudson Courtesy photo

Just because the communications were made over email does not make them exempt from state law and town ordinance regarding open meetings, according to Kate Dufour, the Maine Municipal Association’s advocacy and communications director.

Towns must publicly announce municipal meetings and council quorums in advance, Dufour said, and all decision making should happen under the public eye. Doing otherwise may violate Maine open-meeting laws.

“All rules that apply to a board apply to email, when you start discussing issues that should otherwise be discussed in public,” Dufour said. “When a majority are engaging, you’re really pushing the limits.”

Joseph previously put a motion to discuss an absent council member on the agenda for a May 13 council meeting but withdrew it at the meeting.

Discussion about Trahan’s potential removal were revived Monday after resident Derrick Record posted printouts of Joseph’s and Hudson’s emails to the popular “What’s Happening in Winslow, Maine?” Facebook group, which Hudson founded and moderates.


Though none of the items on the agenda for Monday night’s council meeting were related to Trahan’s status on the council, tensions flared during the public comment section as residents and councilors chimed in about the purported push to oust Trahan.

Resident Amanda Carey said during public comment that she was “thoroughly disgusted” by Hudson’s and Joseph’s emails.

She noted that Joseph and Hudson are both new councilors elected as residents sought transparency after claims of “secret meetings” among town councilors to discuss municipal business in private.

“These emails are not only uncalled for but also eye-opening as to how some members of this council handle their business: backdoor, out of the public’s eye,” Carey said.

Hudson said at the meeting that she and Joseph were not looking to vacate Trahan’s seat outright, but were instead inquiring about his cognitive function and recovery process.

She added that she doesn’t feel the need to apologize, instead saying the person who requested copies of her emails should issue an apology.


For somebody to start spreading that stuff publicly on Facebook is who owes Lee an apology,” Hudson said Monday. “These were emails sent to the town attorney. They were not public. We weren’t trying to go ‘backdoor,’ we weren’t doing anything improper.”

Municipal emails are public records under Maine’s Freedom of Access Act.

The two councilors were not trying to oust Trahan, Hudson said, but were instead just requesting information about the process of vacating a council seat. The push stalled in part because Winslow’s charter leaves the process vague, according to Hudson.

“We never even spoke of removing Lee from his seat, ever,” she said. “They were simple questions that we wanted answers to.”

Joseph rebuked Bowman’s claim that the effort was political, saying he just wanted to make sure Trahan could perform his duties as he recovered.

“I have nothing against you whatsoever, and I don’t look to hoist you out, if that’s what you think or what anyone else thinks,” Joseph said. “My concern is of your well-being and being able to make a decision for this town. That’s a big concern. Whether you can do it or not, that’s another concern.”


Joseph also cited an email he received from an unnamed Winslow physician who was concerned about Trahan’s “serious and possible ongoing illness,” adding that “the residents of this town deserve a fully functioning and unimpaired voice.” A copy of the email was not immediately made available.

Trahan, who attended Monday’s council meeting via Zoom, said he was released from the intensive care unit earlier that day. He is expected to be released into rehab some time in the next few weeks, he said, and aims to begin attending council meetings “as soon as possible.”

As debate winded down at Monday’s meeting, Trahan said he wants to move past the ordeal and does not hold a grudge against Joseph and Hudson.

“I’d just like to tell them regardless of what their intentions were or not, I forgive them,” Trahan said. “I’d like to put it behind us and bring this body of councilors together. Let’s move this town forward.”

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