Town of Alexander Loses $40,000 in Payroll Checks

By Jayna Smith

Last Thursday, October 3, the Town of Alexander select board meeting took place at Alexander Elementary School.  Selectmen Patrick Cormier, Foster Carlow, John Knowles, and David Davis were in attendance.  

From the audience, it was asked if any movement on Ed Burgess’s recent resignation from the position of selectman was going to take place at this meeting.  Chair of the board Foster Carlow explained that Burgess’s resignation was tabled. “We didn’t accept it...We tabled it indefinitely,” he stated. 

Questions arose from town clerk Karen Poor, along with others in attendance, on why the position was not being filled.  Additionally, questions were raised on the legalities of not holding a special town meeting to fill such a position. 

 Carlow expressed his positive opinions of Burgess, stating Burgess was “a valuable member who did many things for the community,” and told the group that Burgess resigned after being continually harassed by community members via the telephone because of Facebook gossip.  “That’s the only reason he resigned, because of the harassing phone calls.”

Some in attendance, including resident Rhonda Oakes, expressed their concerns of the board not accepting Burgess’s resignation.  Oakes stated, “No matter why [Ed Burgess] resigned...he has resigned, he’s not here, he’s not filling the position. Out of respect for him, you should accept his resignation with regret.  That’s not saying he didn’t do a good job; that’s not saying you don’t want him here. That is respectfully going with his wishes and saying you regret the fact, for whatever reason, he resigned...When you don’t accept it with respect, it looks like you’re saying, ‘We don’t care.’”

Oakes went on further explaining to the select board that when three members are together, a quorum is formed “and no business can be done outside of a legal selectmen’s meeting.”  This comment stemmed from the reading of the last meeting’s minutes which showed that at that last meeting, the minutes erroneously reflected that action had been taken on an issue and the majority in attendance at this meeting did not recall a vote on.  The action noted in the minutes involved training for the planning board.  

Resident Jim Davis emphasised Oakes’ comments on a quorum.  “You can’t make decisions after this meeting,” he said. “What you decide tonight is what’s decided until the next meeting...You can’t go after a meeting and make decisions, especially if you’re going to write them in the minutes that you did them in a meeting.”

After some further discussion, and with the agreement of Oakes, the select board voted unanimously to have Oakes keep minutes at future meetings.   

A heated discussion between Poor and Carlow occurred, the topic being town mail leaving the town office.  

Missing Payroll Checks

“Auditors said [town] mail doesn’t leave town property.  $40,000 school payroll got lost when you took the mail a couple of weeks’s never been misplaced before that until now,” Poor said to Carlow.  She went on to explain that included with those checks in the town mail was some of her personal mail and that belonging to a relative, all that had been delivered to her at the town office.  

“Town officials are allowed to get the town mail,” Carlow refuted.  “No one authorized for your personal mail to be left there. It should be delivered to your house.  It’s your problem if people steal it there.”

When one resident from the audience asked, “Whose problem is it if you lost the payroll?” Carlow stated, “I didn’t lose nothing.”  

Carlow claimed that although he did pick up mail from the office, there were no payroll checks included.  Poor, who alleges the payroll checks arrived the day Carlow picked up the mail and took them to his house, explained that the school principal had to drive to Eastport to get new checks that had to be re-cut and re-issued, while the bank was instructed to withhold payment on the first ones.  According to Poor, the original checks have yet to be found, “and no one’s given it a concern either.”  

It was motioned and approved for town clerk Karen Poor to contact the postal service to arrange for town mail to be delivered securely to a locked box at the town office.  

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