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Topsham selectman seeks more than $800 for documents provided to colleague

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Topsham selectman seeks more than $800 for documents provided to colleague

TOPSHAM — Selectman Jim Trusiani on Tuesday expressed satisfaction with the stack of printed e-mails he received from fellow Selectman Sandra Consolini last week through a Freedom of Information Act request.

His only comment was “I believe she’s complied to the law; she gave me documents on all the subjects I asked for. … That’s what I was looking for.”

When he picked up the documents following the Dec. 17 Board of Selectmen meeting, though, Trusiani also received a bill for more than $800 from Consolini to cover costs incurred to comply with his Dec. 3 request.

The charges included $338 for time, plus printer paper and ink and $503 in attorney consulting fees.

“I’m entitled to the expenses paid back for me for doing this,” Consolini said during last week’s Board of Selectmen meeting. “I know I get a stipend (as a selectman), but this has gone beyond the call of duty for my stipend, and under the (Maine) Freedom of Information Act I’m entitled to these expenses being paid, and I’m sure as heck going to get them.”

Consolini claimed Trusiani said he would pay all costs related to his request, to which he responded that he said he would incur all of his own costs. Trusiani said that once he received the documents and the list of charges he would review them with his attorney and pay what he deems appropriate.

Consolini said Trusiani was on a fishing expedition, and that the lure he was using on the end of his hook was the Freedom of Information Act.

“Even though I am fully complying, it is being done with misgivings because, in my opinion, Mr. Trusiani is making a mockery of a great law that was enacted to provide citizens with access to town records and documents,” she said.

In his request to Consolini, Trusiani called for “all town of Topsham documents, written documents, records, any and all e-mails sent or received on any computers” as they relate to the Bay Park drainage issue, tax increment financing, special local elections, town business communication from or to former Selectman Michelle Derr and all other elected officials from other municipalities, as well as budget and finance information.

Trusiani also requested correspondence connected to "Codes and Planning Ordinance or possible violation of ordinance" that concerned open field recycling facilities, car dealers/brokers, commercial property owners and plant operators.

His request followed discussion at recent meetings about correspondence between Consolini and members of the public on several issues. Among them was the conditional allowance or barring of any future large-scale, open-field recycling facilities in Topsham. Consolini introduced that discussion item at the board's Oct. 15 meeting after a fire at the Grimmel Industries metal recycling business the prior month.

Trusiani said earlier this month that one reason he submitted the request is that Consolini ran for office on a platform advocating a transparent form of government, and that he expected her to uphold transparency related to correspondence she has had about town business, in order to help the board make decisions on those matters.

Chairman Ron Riendeau, meanwhile, expressed frustration with the escalating board conflict.

“I’ve been a selectman almost 12 years, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this,” he said. “… I just think this has gotten out of hand … It’s just not fun for us, it’s not fun for the board, and I’m sure it’s not fun for the taxpayers out there, either. I would hope when this is settled, we can move on.”

Consolini told Riendeau she would move on, adding that “let’s hope everybody else moves on as well.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.