2015-08-13 / Front Page

Council meeting ends abruptly

By Molly Lovell-Keely Managing Editor


Biddeford resident Doris McAuliffe comforts Matt Lauzon, a Boston native who grew up in Biddeford and has alleged a former Biddeford officer sexually abused him. Lauzon made several outbursts during this week’s meeting. (Molly Lovell-Keely photo) Biddeford resident Doris McAuliffe comforts Matt Lauzon, a Boston native who grew up in Biddeford and has alleged a former Biddeford officer sexually abused him. Lauzon made several outbursts during this week’s meeting. (Molly Lovell-Keely photo) BIDDEFORD – The very behavior that prompted the Biddeford City Council to hold a special meeting to discuss council rules and decorum ended the meeting less than 20 minutes after it began Monday, Aug. 10.

Council President John McCurry called the meeting after hearing from constituents and fellow councilors that the time public comment is taken during meetings, which was shifted in recent months, wasn’t working.

Since February, several men have alleged that two former Biddeford police officers sexually abused them, rallying residents who’ve demanded action from city officials. The public comment period at meetings has at times become difficult to control, resulting in the council adjourning meetings early without finishing business.


Matt Lauzon, on the stairs with his mother, Debbie Lauzon, followed Councilor Marc Lessard out of city hall where the two exchanged words Monday. Sgt. of Gorton with the Biddeford Police Department followed them outside. (Molly Lovell-Keely photo) Matt Lauzon, on the stairs with his mother, Debbie Lauzon, followed Councilor Marc Lessard out of city hall where the two exchanged words Monday. Sgt. of Gorton with the Biddeford Police Department followed them outside. (Molly Lovell-Keely photo) Each council meeting agenda consists of a municipal officer’s meeting and a council meeting. Items that could be included in a municipal officer’s meeting are considering and voting on liquor licenses; considering and voting on games of chance and bingo applications; public hearings of any kind; proclamations, recognitions and awards; updates; presentations; informational addresses to the council and public; and public addressing the council.

What is typically done during council meetings is considering and voting on minutes; any and all orders/ business that needs to be considered and approved by the council, including ordinance amendments; budgetary issues and contractual issues; appointments to the city’s boards, committees and commissions; executive sessions, and committees of the whole.

In May, councilors voted to hold one meeting a month to host public comment, removing the item from regular meeting agendas. Public comment was brought back to regular meetings recently, but moved to the end.

McCurry said it’s unfair to make those conducting business with the city to wait until the end of a meeting.

“I’m definitely not in favor of impeding anyone’s ability to speak,” said Ward 5 Council Bob Mills. “I think this turmoil developed when we started tinkering with the municipal officer’s meeting. I think . . . not only has it confused the public, but it has frustrated the public as well.”

Ward 1 Councilor Mike Swanton said officials could compromise by allowing public comment at the beginning of meetings, but decreasing it from five to three minutes per person and allowing more people to speak after 10 p.m., after regular business has been addressed.

Ward 4 Councilor Robert Quattrone asked for a show of hands from the audience of those who approved of the idea, but point of order was called, preventing the move.

Attendees shouted while At-Large Councilor Marc Lessard tried to continue the conversation.

“I’m sorry but I’m having a hard time hearing the meeting because there’s a lot of chatter over here,” he said, motioning to Boston resident Matt Lauzon. “It’s being very disruptive.”

Lauzon is a 2003 Biddeford High School graduate who was the first man to publicly allege a former city police officer sexually abused him when he was a teenager.

Lauzon, sitting in the front row, yelled at Lessard while Mayor Alan Casavant banged the gavel for order to be restored.

“We cannot have this kind of engagement,” Casavant said. “There are certain rules and protocols we must follow.”

Lauzon then confronted Casavant about a recent video release, regarding Lauzon’s efforts to prosecute his alleged abusers.

“You can’t speak on my behalf,” Lauzon yelled.

McCurry interjected.

“If we can’t control a person or persons, they are, according to our rules – unless we change them – they are . . .”

“Subject to arrest,” Lauzon interrupted. “I understand that. Arrest me.”

Lessard started to talk about when he was a councilor in the 1990s and early 2000s, and issues that would take a meeting in to late hours.

“So is sexual abuse not important? Is that what you’re saying?” Lauzon asked.

While Casavant tried to regain control of the meeting, Lessard addressed a phone call Lauzon said Lessard’s father made.

Lessard has taken out nomination papers to run for councilor-at-large and mayor.

“My father made a phone call to someone he’s known for 60 years and this was to ask the person, who has already taken out papers to run for mayor, to get information on what he believes in as far as running for mayor – what his political beliefs are,” Lessard said.

Lauzon, during the meeting and on social media, claims Lessard’s father said, “Why doesn’t Matt hold off until after the election? . . . Yes or no, your father said that we should be silent until after the election so my son can run?”

While Lessard tried to continue, Lauzon and others in the audience continued to yell, before the mayor called for the meeting to adjourn. The council voted 5-3 to adjourn with councilors Mills, Roger Hurtubuise and Swanton opposed.

Lauzon followed Lessard out of city hall and Sgt. Steven Gorton, one of two plainclothes officers in council chambers, followed them both.

Throughout the meeting Gorton remained in the public access control room of council chambers while another officer stood in a doorway at the side of council chambers. They communicated with one another throughout the meeting.

Police Chief Roger Beaupre said an officer has been assigned to attend all city council meetings since March to assure the public’s safety.

“The officer is not there to monitor or control speech, and wears street clothes so as not to add an air of intimidation to those in attendance,” Beaupre said in an email the next day. “(Gorton) usually works outside and near city hall, and has worked in tandem with the officer within the council chambers. We have done nothing different last night than what has been done since March.”

After leaving city hall, Lessard returned to council chambers and, in an interview, addressed what happened at the meeting.

“I feel sad that I didn’t get a chance to say what I wanted to say. I sit here every week, listening to everybody, not interrupting anybody. For years I’ve done that and I respect everybody that comes forth and wants to talk to the council and then when I want to be able to share my story, I can’t share it. It’s unfortunate, it really is,” he said.

Lessard said he wanted to convey during the meeting that he pays for his father’s phone, so when he makes a call, it comes up under “Marc Lessard.”

“The simple fact is, my father is his own person. I don’t filter my father,” Lessard said. “He can say whatever he wants to. I don’t know what he says and you know what? I’m my own person. I’m going to say what I’m going to say. I shouldn’t be accountable for what you’re going to say, you shouldn’t be accountable for what I’m saying.”

Casavant, after the meeting, said he wanted to have a good discussion without name-calling and issues with decorum.

“But we can’t have good discussions with people yelling from the audience and hijacking the meetings.”

On Tuesday Lauzon emailed the mayor and councilors apologizing for his actions, saying that he would step back from future meetings.

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