Charges in Chelsea may trigger FBI probe (Feb. 17, 2011)

The town’s top elected official faces numerous accusations of abusing her position.

By CRAIG CROSBY, MECHELE COOPER and BOB MENTZINGER
Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — Federal authorities may join the ongoing investigation into alleged wrongdoing by Chelsea’s top elected official.

Kennebec County Sheriff Randall Liberty told Kennebec County commissioners Tuesday that the FBI may launch its own investigation because an elected official is involved.

Chelsea Board of Selectmen Chairman Carole Swan, 52, was arrested last week and charged with aggravated forgery, theft and improper compensation for services. Swan, free on $25,000 cash bail, is accused of improperly obtaining $10,000 from Frank Monroe of Whitefield, who has contracted to plow Chelsea’s roads since 2006. She has also drawn scrutiny for roadwork contracts awarded to her husband’s company.

The investigation “seems to be expanding every day,” Liberty told commissioners Tuesday.

Kennebec County Sheriff’s Department Detective David Bucknam, lead investigator in the case, said Wednesday he would be contacting federal agencies to confirm whether any of the Swan investigation falls under their jurisdiction.

Federal interest may be sparked if officials believe a federal law has been violated or federal funds misused.

Swan served as a de facto road commissioner and awarded many of the town’s roadwork contracts, former town officials have said.

Records obtained by the Kennebec Journal show Marshall Swan Construction won the lion’s share of federal disaster aid after the Patriot’s Day storm of 2007. Marshall Swan is the husband of Carole Swan.

Of the $337,736 in federal disaster funds paid to the town, at least $315,270 – 93 percent – went to Marshall Swan Construction, town records show.

Monroe, the plowing contractor, told police Jan. 31 that Swan, a selectman for nearly 19 years, asked him to overbill for road sand so she could get a kickback. Liberty, the sheriff, said Swan asked Monroe to bill the town for 1,700 cubic yards of sand but to only deliver 500 yards. The town was to pay him for 1,700 yards, and Monroe was to give her $10,000 of that. But Monroe balked and went to police, Liberty said.

Chelsea’s road contracting has drawn scrutiny since 2009, when the state sanctioned the town for draining wetlands without proper permits.

The $53,000 contract for that job was awarded to Marshall Swan Construction without competitive bidding after Carole Swan deemed the project an emergency, former town officials have said.

In Chelsea, selectmen may award contracts in the absence of a town manager. But the town’s ethics policy prohibits selectmen from entering into contracts with members of their immediate families, or steering work to businesses “which they or their immediate family own or manage.”

Swan is due in court May 24.

To view the original article, click here.

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