September 4, 2008
Suit Against Paris Selectmen Dismissed
By M. Dirk Langeveld
PARIS - A judge dismissed a lawsuit against two Paris selectmen after the complainant said the accusations were no longer relevant.
Paris resident Robert Moorehead filed an appeal in April charging then Chairman Ernest Fitts III and Selectman Glen Young with a conflict of interest in their votes to create an ad hoc committee to review the subdivision ordinance in January.
The ordinance passed 487-468 vote in June 2007. The ad hoc committee was formed after Fitts brother, Ron Fitts, proposed nine amendments to the ordinance in January.
Moorehead charged that Fitts had a conflict of interest due to his relationship with his brother, and that Ron Fitts and Glen Young both had subdivision plans on file with the town office.
Moorehead was also seeking to void the votes of the two selectmen in their appointment of Ron Fitts as an alternate to the Planning Board in March, as well as any votes related to the subdivision ordinance.
Since the complaint was filed, Fitts has left the Board of Selectmen after deciding not to seek re-election, the ad hoc committee has dissolved, and Ron Fitts has been removed from the alternate seat on the Planning Board after selectmen did not approve his reappointment.
"Those actions pretty much dissolved the complaint," Moorehead said. "Based on that, I'm withdrawing my complaint."
Moorehead defended his filing of the suit, saying it sought the "conscientious adherence to good government." He said that the issue came to the Oxford County Superior Court after he discovered that it could not be handled by another entity.
"I think it was a bad decision by inexperienced selectmen," Moorehead said of the forming of the ad hoc committee.
Young was present in court, and said he decided to run for selectmen after the town's code enforcement officer, Claude Rounds, told him that the town was seeking to build more expensive homes. Rounds has denied that there were any such proposals.
"I'd just like my name cleared up a bit," Young said. "I don't think I did nothing wrong."
Town attorney Theodore Kurtz, who has represented Fitts and Young in the matter, requested that the case be dismissed on merits so that the two selectmen can be awarded attorneys fees. With Fitts and Young abstaining, selectmen were unable to approve an agenda item that would have the town pay for the representation of the two members after selectman Gerald Kilgore voted against the measure.
"I think this was an attempt to make legal a political matter," Kurtz said.
Justice Roland Cole granted Moorehead's motion to dismiss, but did not award attorneys fees. Cole said he did not believe a conflict of interest occurs on a town board unless someone votes on an issue they are invested in.
"In my opinion, there's nothing wrong with someone who is a builder being on the Planning Board," Cole said.
Originally published by Staff Writer.
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