No charges in case of missing Chebeague funds; voters OK 2 referendums

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CHEBEAGUE ISLAND — No criminal charges will be brought in a case of missing town funds.

The Cumberland County Sherriff’s Office, which was investigating the incident, and Town Administrator Marjorie Stratton on Monday said the case has been closed. They didn’t provide much more detail, although the sheriff’s office said it was unable to determine if a crime was committed.

On Tuesday, meanwhile, town voters in a special referendum election approved the purchase of a new fire engine and construction of a parking lot near Stone Wharf.

Town officials discovered the missing money Dec. 31, 2015, and contacted the sherriff’s office on Jan. 2 after an emergency Board of Selectmen meeting. According to a press release from Stratton, “a few thousand dollars” were missing.

Sheriff’s Detective Sgt. Paul Thorpe last month said the money had been missing since April and it was unclear why no one noticed the deficit until December.

“After several weeks of investigation and financial analysis of the evidence, the case was referred back to Chebeague Island town officials for further consideration and evaluation,” the sherriff’s office said in a press release. “At this time, no criminal charges will be filed in the case.”

Detective Brian Ackerman performed the investigation; he referred inquiries to Lt. Don Foss, who Monday said the case could be reopened, if new information surfaces.

Although no criminal charges are being filed, Foss said that doesn’t mean the missing funds are simply the result of a bookkeeping error.

“We were unable to determine whether a crime was committed or who committed it, based on what we were provided with,” he said.

Stratton’s press release said town officials will be more careful with funds in the future.

“The town administrator and the Board of Selectmen have taken action to improve the accounting methods and further implement best practices,” she said.

Special election

The fire engine purchase, which will cost approximately $230,000, was approved Tuesday 103-57. The parking lot agreement was approved 99-60.

The town’s old fire truck from the early 1980s “has been retired,” Board of Selectman Chairman Christopher Loder said in December. He said firefighters have been using a loaner truck through a short-term lease with Greenwood Emergency Services of Brunswick.

The parking lot will be built near Stone Wharf on a piece of land owned by the Great Chebeague Golf Club. In a nonbinding vote last June, voters approved continuing the discussion, which was used to guide negotiations.

The golf club has offered to donate nearly an acre of land along Stone Wharf Road so the town can create up to 40 parking spaces to serve the wharf. An agreement to transfer the land to the town has been written and, now that it has been approved by voters, a survey and engineering study will be completed.

There will also be a special election March 1 to elect two selectmen, although one of the board members who recently resigned is running again.

Susan Campbell, formerly vice chairwoman of the board, submitted a letter of resignation Dec. 22, 2015; Selectman William Calthorpe resigned Jan. 1. Both were serving their first terms. Campbell’s term runs until June 30, and Calthorpe’s ends in 2017.

Four people have returned nomination papers for the seats. John Corson and Jean-Louis Beaupre are running against Campbell; David Stevens is unopposed to complete Calthorpe’s term of office.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.