Probe now includes husband of selectman (March 3, 2011)

Contracting practices of town in question; wife recently arrested

By Mechele Cooper mcooper@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

and Betty Adams badams@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

CHELSEA — The investigation into town road-contracting practices has expanded to include the contractor husband of the town’s embattled first selectman, a town attorney said Wednesday.

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Marshall Swan

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Carole Swan

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The probe of Marshall Swan — whose wife, Selectman Carole Swan, was arrested on Feb. 10 on charges she allegedly extorted a $10,000 kickback from a plow contractor — concerns “intent to circumvent the town’s purchasing ordinance,” town attorney Stephen Langsdorf said.

Kennebec County Sheriff Randall Liberty confirmed Wednesday that Marshall Swan is being investigated.

Swan owns a construction firm and has been under scrutiny in Chelsea amid allegations that he’s received favored treatment for road work. These accusations surfaced publicly in 2009, after he was paid $66,600 to replace culverts on Windsor Road to alleviate flooding.

The job was awarded without bids because selectmen, acting in lieu of a road commissioner, deemed it an emergency.

Chelsea’s road-bidding ordinance allows work to be awarded without bid if it’s an emergency or costs less than $10,000.

But residents, public officials and other contractors questioned the assessment of an emergency on Windsor Road, and the state soon sanctioned the town because the job was done without required permits.

Town records reviewed by the Kennebec Journal show his firm, Marshall Swan Construction, has often garnered the lion’s share of town road projects in the past five years.

In some of those projects, Swan submitted multiple invoices for less than $10,000 for the same project — an apparent attempt to circumvent town bidding rules. Invoices from other contractors did not follow that same practice during the period reviewed.

During that period, Swan Construction got $77,198 after submitting eight separate invoices of less than $10,000 each for a project on Dondero Road that selectmen awarded as a no-bid “patch job.”

In an August 2010 interview, Carole Swan — an 18-year member of the Board of Selectmen — said most of Chelsea’s town managers had no experience writing bid specifications, so it was easier to give her husband the jobs and keep the amounts under $10,000.

She vigorously denied exerting influence over fellow selectmen or town personnel in order to secure contracts for her husband’s company.

Marshall Swan has repeatedly declined to return calls seeking comment regarding his work for the town.

Reiterating a message he delivered to townspeople at a special selectmen’s meeting Feb. 23, Langsdorf said Wednesday he’s recommending the town investigate contracting between the town and Swan, and how those contracts were awarded.

Also Wednesday, Langsdorf released a letter to Leonard Sharon — Carole Swan’s defense attorney — notfiying him “it is the strong sentiment of the people of the Town of Chelsea that your client resign her position as selectman with the town immediately.”

“Please advise me of her decision as soon as possible,” the letter concludes.

Sharon was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

Mechele Cooper — 623-3811, ext. 408

mcooper@centralmaine.com

Betty Adams — 621-5631

badams@centralmaine.com

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