Selectmen get earful about Naples rec director
By Dawn De Busk
NAPLES — The Naples Board of Selectmen was in no position to say anything. After all, the board members could not respond to most of the comments during public participation because what was vocalized had to do with a town employee.
That is a topic reserved for executive session.
On Monday, people brought forward their complaints about the Naples Recreation Director Harvey Price. Also, that evening those in support of Price stepped up to the microphone.
On Sept. 8, Suzanne Deschenes launched an ipetition to have Price removed from his position. On Monday, the conversation went from the Internet world to the meeting room at the Naples Town Office.
Roughly a few dozen people showed up and spoke.
Early on, Deschenes addressed the board, saying, “I understand that you cannot discuss the employment of a municipal employee in a public forum. I’m not here to ask that of you. I’m here to be heard and to ensure that the concerns of my family and many families in this community are also heard. I’m here to present a petition to remove Harvey Price from his position as Rec Director for the Town of Naples, backed with over 275 signatures last I checked, and a substantial number of documented complaints. I should also note that a number of those signatures represent the views of not only the signee, but also their spouse and children,” Deschenes said. “And many others have private messaged me their support, but do not want to go public for fear of retaliation, which is evidence of a problem in and of itself.”
“Attempts to reason with Harvey and the town manager had not succeeded prior to this petition,” she said. “Since starting the petition, I have heard and read of incidents that make me ashamed that I did not take action sooner. I am equally disappointed that the Town appears to have neglected the issues.”
After Deschenes spoke, there were people who provided examples of what they referred to as bullying behavior by Price and there were people who praised him for his work with children and coaches in the recreation department.
“We can go back and forth all night long,” Casco Recreation Director Beth Latsey said.
“This is an opportunity to get the recreation committee back together, to set a direction and see change,” Latsey said.
She said the residents of Naples could reshape the role of the recreation director, deciding whether or not they want that person to be an enforcer of rules.
“Sit down and be productive. Do what a community does,” she said.
“Obviously, from the amount of people who weighed in, there is a situation to be addressed,” Latsey said.
As of Monday night, the number of signatures on the ipetition had reached 276. The goal had been reduced from 1,000 to 400 signatures. There were 139 comments.
Sam Smith, a Naples resident attending Thomas College in Waterville, talked about Price’s positive characteristics. He wrote several paragraphs in favor of Price on the ipetition website, but when he posted his comment, the system caused him to also sign the petition, he said.
According to Ephrem Paraschak, who spoke via a phone conversation earlier Monday, it is difficult to take the ipetition seriously.
“There is no way to validate the signatures on the ipetition. Someone signed it as Harvey, and it was not him that did that,” he said.
“I have only received one complaint since this all started, and it was from someone out of town,” he said. “I’ve received eight letters of support for Harvey.”
“In the municipal world, you would have disciplinary actions before” terminating someone, Paraschak said.
In the public participation forum on Monday evening, the recurring theme was that Price frequently calls the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) or at least tells individuals that he is going to do that.
Resident Laurie Frizzell, the owner of The Causeway Dairy Bar, spoke to the selectmen.
“This is like a police state with Harvey. This is what he does. If he has a problem with someone, he calls the sheriff’s office,” she said, citing an example based on personal experience.
“Don’t I have the same right to stand here as he does? If he calls the sheriff’s office, what do I do? Call the state police?” Frizzell said.
Her comment was met with laughter. She said it was funny, but also troublesome.
“My problem is that the members of this board condone his behavior,” she said.
“If you don’t want to fire him, at least send him to school,” she said, referring to an anger management class or courses on dealing with the public in a diplomatic manner.
“All of you condone his behavior. When I talk to Ephrem, he defends Harvey. And, I don’t think that should be his role. He should be middle of the road, neutral,” she said.
“We are not against Harvey. We are against it going on,” Frizzel said. “Why does it keep going on?”
To hear more comments made by area residents, go to www.lakeregiontv.org/