News Column

Members of defunct South Thomaston group say former fire chief had no right to take money from bank account

May 14, 2014

By Stephen Betts, Bangor Daily News, Maine

May 14--SOUTH THOMASTON, Maine -- Five members of the disbanded South Thomaston Firemen's Association say former fire chief Wayne A. Brown had no authority to withdraw nearly $15,000 from the group's account four years ago.

The association members, including former association president David Elwell, mailed a letter Tuesday to Maine Attorney General Janet Mills asking her to take whatever action is necessary to ensure that the missing money is turned over to South Thomaston.

The letter states that when association members voted to disband in 2007, they agreed any money remaining in the organization's bank account would be turned over to the town.

"Wayne A. Brown, although a former association member, was not an officer of the association and did not have any authority from the association to withdraw the funds or to assume custody of them," the letter states.

The letter was signed by Elwell, who was president of the organization when it disbanded, current Fire Chief Bryan Calderwood, Arthur Grierson, Bobby Grierson and former selectman Jeffrey Northgraves.

Following his effort to track the money down, South Thomaston Administrative Assistant John Spear said two weeks ago that Camden National Bank gave him records which showed that on July 15, 2010, Brown closed out three South Thomaston Firemen's Association bank accounts. The bank further stated that a check for $14,783, totaling the amount from all three accounts, was given to Brown who endorsed it and either deposited or cashed it at TD Bank that same day, according to Spear. He said TD Bank would not give out information to him about the transaction.

Brown was a member of the firemen's association until it disbanded and was the town's fire chief until he resigned in 2006.

Brown then filed a federal civil rights lawsuit claiming he was harassed to the point that he was forced to resign. The town and Brown settled in May 2010, with the town paying him $95,000, of which $80,000 went to his legal costs.

Spear said earlier this month that he forwarded the bank information to the Maine attorney general's office and that the department was investigating. Tim Feeley of the attorney general's office said two weeks ago that the department was reviewing the matter but had no further comment. Brown has not been charged with any crime.

What happened with the association's money has been a topic of conversation off and on in town for the past four years. The issue first arose publicly at a July 2010 selectmen's meeting when the officials demanded that the money be turned over to the town by representatives of the association.

Spear said he simply wants the money to help pay for a new firetruck approved by voters at the March town meeting this year. At that meeting, Brown argued against the town buying the truck.

Contacted by telephone two weeks ago, Brown said he does not know whether he withdrew the money from the account in 2010. When asked again why he wouldn't know if he had or not, he said he had no comment. Brown did add, however, that the town was in error when it disbanded the association. He also questioned what right the town had to get records of the association bank accounts.

A telephone message left for Brown on Wednesday morning was not immediately returned.


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Source: Bangor Daily News (ME)

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