Petition for second assembly surfaces
By Molly Lovell-Keely
BIDDEFORD – City resident Roch Angers said he has been inspired by recent stories told by sexual abuse survivors who have alleged wrongdoing by two former police officers. So inspired, he said, that he's taken out a petition to hold a second general meeting of citizens.
The first was held May 28 at the Biddeford High School library in response to city administration eliminating public comment at city council meetings; public comment is now only allowed on agenda items to help execute city business in a more timely manner.
Supporters of the alleged victims have called for Police Chief Roger Beaupre and Deputy Police Chief Joanne Fisk to be put on paid administrative leave while sexual abuse allegations investigated by the Maine Attorney General's Office. They have said that since Beaupre was chief when the abuse has been alleged to have taken place, other potential victims are intimidated to come forward. Administration felt vocal members of the public and outbursts were making it difficult for the city to conduct business at regular meetings and approved a measure that would allow comment on the sexual abuse allegations every first Thursday of the month. The first meeting to come out of that measure was held June 1. Biddeford resident Mellisa Luedke felt that wasn't soon enough and spearheaded an effort to collect the 100 signatures needed to force the first general meeting of the citizens.
Since the citizens' meeting, the Biddeford City Council approved a resolution that it saw no grounds for the chief or deputy chief to be put on leave. Councilors Bob Quattrone and Bob Mills voted in opposition.
The current petition calls for the next citizens meeting to be held 7 to 10 p.m. Wednesday, July 15 at the Biddeford Middle School auditorium. It also calls for the meeting to be broadcast live on public access and recorded for future viewing. It also states that Angers will choose the moderator.
“The purpose of the meeting is to present facts and reasoning that make the case for why an independent investigation of the Biddeford Police Department is warranted through professional presentations,” the petition reads.
Boston native Matt Lauzon, a 2003 Biddeford High School graduate, came forward publicly in February with allegations that as a teen he was sexually abused by former Biddeford Sgt. Stephen Dodd. Lauzon originally went to Biddeford Police Department with the allegations in October. When Lauzon didn't see progress in the investigation, which was forwarded to the AG's office, he went to social media about the alleged abuse.
“We need somebody on the outside to come in whether it be the state police, the FBI or some other federal agency,” said Angers, adding that he wants to get 1,000 signatures even though city charter only requires 100 to force the meeting.
“We've had some people question whether or not it's only a certain percentile of people in the city who support these efforts,” Angers said. “Well, I tell you, every place I go, this is the discussion. We have a black eye on our city. We need to take this black eye away and move forward. Right now, this petition is the way to do that.”
Angers said he hopes the meeting will encourage more survivors to come forward to help healing. In addition, he wants to see experts speak about trauma and its effects.
“This is true, and it does go on – people need to understand that,” Angers said.
The former city councilor and three-time council president said he didn't become involved in the matter right away. It was his wife and daughter who brought it to his attention.
“I stand up for what I believe in – that's very important to me,” Angers said. “I'm an involved individual.”
Angers, who was on the city's police commission when it was an elected position, said as he attended more meetings, he felt the need to speak up on a subject that he knows is uncomfortable to address. Uncomfortable, even for him.
“Some people have been silent because they're scared. People are scared to talk about sexuality – certainly people of my age. I was shaking the first time I spoke about it publicly,” he said.
Angers said it alarms him that people in the Attorney General's Office currently investigating the allegations also investigated the two officers, Dodd and former Capt. Norman Gaudette, decades ago.
“I think there's a couple people in that office that shouldn't be there,” he said.
As for Biddeford Police Department, Angers said he's disappointed that there have been no results.
“Matt (Lauzon) first reported this back in October/November and here we are, in the middle of June, and we're not any further today,” Angers said. “Let's find out what's going on.”