Brunswick council rebukes Klatt; Crooker resigns from BEDC
BRUNSWICK — The Town Council on Monday issued a public condemnation of District 4 Councilor Karen Klatt, whose conduct following a March 30 workshop has angered affiliates of the Brunswick Economic Development Corp.
Klatt's censure came on the heels of the resignation of BEDC member Ted Crooker, vice president of Harry C. Crooker & Sons.
Crooker's resignation was the second by a BEDC member in two weeks. Mike Ouellet, the former BEDC president, resigned two days after he had a confrontation with Klatt at a March 30 council workshop.
Ouellet said Klatt made allegations about his personal life. Klatt said her comments were in response to Ouellet threatening her.
After the incident ignited a barrage of criticism and the threat of a lawsuit by Ouellet, council Chairwoman Hallie Daughtry on Monday read a brief statement during a special meeting and workshop. The meeting, which was held at the council's temporary meeting facility at 6 Industry Road, was not televised.
Daughtry never mentioned Klatt by name, but her prepared statement made a direct reference to Klatt's run-in with Ouellet.
Daughtry prefaced her remarks by saying the backlash created by the confrontation was a distraction from work the council had done to redefine its economic development strategies and its relationship with the BEDC, the quasi-governmental agency created to advise the town on development matters.
"(The council) regrets that personal statements by a fellow councilor after a council meeting gave offense and have diverted attention from the significant issues facing us," Daughtry said. "We rededicated ourselves to upholding our standards of decorum during and after meetings and will not tolerate any digressions that are not germane to the pressing issues before us."
The condemnation came a week after nearly 20 BEDC members and supporters filled council chambers to criticize Klatt's conduct. Several said the councilor's actions were slanderous and had exposed the town to possible litigation.
Ouellet later said he had considered taking legal action against the town.
Ouellet is the lead contractor on the Maine Street Station project. Critics have suggested he won the contract in part because of his participation on a council subcommittee that oversaw the development.
The conflict-of-interest allegations came last summer, but have festered ever since the council began reviewing the role of the BEDC, which some critics have said advances projects that benefit its members.
While Klatt didn't mention Ouellet during the March 30 workshop, she made reference to the perceived conflict. She later said that Ouellet approached her after the meeting and demanded she stop raising the issue "or else."
Klatt has not denied making allegations about Ouellet's personal life. She said after the March 30 meeting that Ouellet's threats prompted her to raise the issue.
Regardless of who said and did what, the incident has become an embarrassing episode for a council that in January vowed to put aside past – and paralyzing – differences in order to make progress on economic hurdles elevated by the planned 2011 closure of Brunswick Naval Air Station. Although there's been evidence of a consensus, recent events seem to have reopened old wounds.
During the council's April 6 meeting, an argument broke out between Crooker and resident Julie Poole, a friend of Klatt's. According to Cmdr. Marc Hagan, Poole has since complained that the police officer attempting to control the event showed deference to Crooker. However, Poole has not filed a formal complaint.
On April 7 Crooker resigned from the BEDC via a one-sentence letter to Vice President Steve Weems.The resignation was typed, but in a hand-written postscript, Crooker wrote, "Please thank all who are on the board for their support, it's just time for me to move on."
Last week Weems said in an e-mail that he was saddened by the losses of Ouellet and Crooker.
"We need experienced, dedicated people like Mike and Ted to be effective in the pursuit of our basic mission to foster suitable economic development in Brunswick," Weems wrote. "Continuing focus on procedural issues and imaginary conflicts of interest divert everyone's attention from the real economic problems and opportunities facing Brunswick."
Weems said that the circumstances prompting the resignations are a "travesty," adding that Brunswick would be well served to recognize the contributions of citizens from various backgrounds and to "find better, more trusting ways to conduct our business, acknowledging the basic goodness in people."