CAPE ELIZABETH — The Town Council elected Jessica Sullivan chairwoman at their annual caucus on Monday, Nov. 13, but not without discourse.
Specifically, Sullivan was questioned and criticized about actions she took following a July 10 vote to vacate paper streets.
In October, Sullivan was quoted in the Portland Press Herald as having referred to the four councilors who voted to vacate – Caitlin Jordan, Penelope Jordan, Patty Grennon and Sara Lennon – as the “F-Uped Four” in an email to a constituent.
The Cape Courier’s August issue also published a letter from Sullivan calling the four councilors’ votes “unconscionable” and “an outrage.”
“Trust and respect are a really important part of working together as a team,” Penelope Jordan said during Monday’s meeting.
Saying that Sullivan’s comments demonstrated a lack of respect for her peers, Jordan asked Sullivan what she learned from the experience and what she might have done differently with the gift of hindsight.
“As far as the quotation in the paper … it was a very difficult time for me personally, and so hopefully in the future I would not respond that way to a constituent,” Sullivan responded, adding that she was dealing with a family medical situation at the time.
Sullivan said responding to the email was a mistake she regrets, and noted she responded to a Freedom of Access Act request from the Portland Press Herald immediately.
Regarding her letter to the Cape Courier, Sullivan said the decision to submit it was a difficult one for her.
“I was aware of the potential response, but I still maintain that I really didn’t know what else to do in that moment,” she said. “I was so worried about the town’s view of the integrity of the council because of what occurred on July 10.”
Caitlin Jordan said she was disheartened by Sullivan’s response to Penelope Jordan’s question.
“I was really disappointed in your actions over the July 10 vote,” she said. “There was legally nothing wrong with the vote … and I think the letter to the editor called into question the integrity of the council more than a legal vote at a meeting.”
“I really don’t think it sends a good message to support those actions,” Jordan added. “I would’ve thought you’d have been more apologetic.”
Penelope Jordan suggested that, once Sullivan realized the quote would be published, she should have called councilors to explain what happened and apologize. She added that she trusted Sullivan, but would have liked to hear from her directly.
Lennon, however, said she did not trust Sullivan.
“It was a personal attack,” she said. “Three months later, I’m still hurt and angry over it. … I’ve served for almost nine years and I’ve never had my integrity attacked like that and it was so very public. … That’s an assault on a reputation that will never go away.”
Lennon added that she felt Sullivan put ideology over her relationship with her peers during the discussion about paper streets.
Nonetheless, Penelope Jordan and Caitlin Jordan voted to appoint Sullivan. Lennon was the only councilor opposed.
“I appreciate your support and your heartfelt comments,” Sullivan said.
“I brought this question up because I think it all needed to be put on the table,” Penelope Jordan said. “I didn’t want to hurt you in any way. … I just wanted people to be able to say what they needed to say. … That’s the only way you will be successful as chair.”
Lennon was also nominated for the leadership position, but lost by a vote of 6-1.
Both Sullivan and Lennon have experience leading the Council, having served as chairwoman in 2014 and 2012, respectively.
Former Chairman Jamie Garvin was appointed chairman of the Finance Committee. The council does not appoint a vice chairperson, but if the chairwoman is absent, the Finance Committee chairman sits in.
Council leadership for 2018 will be formally voted on at the first meeting of the new council on Dec. 11.