The City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved rules of order for its meetings over objections from Mayor Samantha Paradis, who said the procedures were created to silence her because of her age, gender and sexual orientation.

The differing takes were only the latest episode in a year of conflicts between the council and Paradis, and appeared to leave the two sides as far apart as ever, prompting City Councilor Mike Hurley to comment before the vote that he felt like he was speeding past Paradis in opposite directions on I-95.

Under the new rules, councilors will be allowed to speak first on agenda items followed by the mayor, with the cycle repeating until the discussion is finished.

On Tuesday, the five councilors described the rules as a way to take the guesswork out of the moderation process. They also made it clear that Paradis is the reason the rules are needed.

Paradis and her supporters said the rules were the latest in a number of attempts by the council to silence Paradis because of who she is.

Maddie Thomson Crossman, who spoke during a public comment period, said the rules limit the amount of time Paradis can speak and "make sure she knows her place" by forcing her to speak last.

"It's clearly very difficult for you to have to hear the voice of a young, queer woman and you'd like to stop that from happening," Thomson Crossman said. She went on to suggest that the council would try to "gaslight" the mayor by claiming the rules limit the speech of all elected officials. Gaslighting is psychological manipulation that involves repeatedly questioning a person's interpretation of reality until they begin to doubt their own sanity.

"When you write a new rule that limits the speech of a person that you've repeatedly tried to silence, it's obvious what you're doing," Thomson Crossman said.

Councilors denied that their complaints had anything to do with Paradis' age, gender or sexual orientation and denied the new rules were designed to mute her voice.

Councilor Paul Dean, who is new to the council but served as chairman of the city's Comprehensive Plan Committee and described himself as an "equal opportunity listener," said he saw the rules as a way to have a consistent structure to meetings that allows everyone to be heard.

"It seems to work best that way," he said. "And I would be willing, as a chairperson, to change it up if it wasn't working."

Councilor Mike Hurley addressed Thomson Crossman's gaslighting comment and said he feels like that's what she has been doing to him.

"I don't buy it for a second," he said. "What is going on is poor management of a meeting."

As the councilors spoke, each denied that the rules had to do with who Paradis is, saying instead the rules are needed because of what she had done. Many of the comments centered on a joint meeting between the Planning Board and City Council in February at which Councilor Neal Harkness said Paradis refused to recognize him to speak.

Councilor Eric Sanders described watching Paradis calling on other people while Harkness waited to be recognized. Harkness stood up to leave in protest, and after an exchange, Paradis said he could leave if he wanted to.

"I don't think Neal not getting called upon is infringing on your rights at all," Sanders said to Paradis. "It's about Neal having the right to be called upon."

Paradis said the joint meetings were the first of their kind and involved a large group with different views of the project before them — a proposal for the only piece of land in the city zoned for a big-box store. She said the agenda was confusing and she had been seeking clarification when Harkness stood up to leave. Her comment about his leaving, she said, was only to acknowledge that she couldn't force him to stay.

Harkness later disputed Paradis' interpretation and invited constituents to watch the video for themselves. He said Paradis could have apologized rather than dismissing him.

"I would have been happy with an 'oops,' but 'I don't care if you're here or not?'" he said, "and the mayor is the one being marginalized and silenced?"

Harkness said the the proposed rules place the mayor last in the speaking order because the council votes and the mayor doesn't. He asked Paradis for suggestions about how to make meetings run more smoothly.

"I'm tired of the drama; I think the majority of people around town are tired of the drama," he said. "We have a full plate." He went on to list a number of other priorities that have come before the council, or soon will.

When Paradis spoke, she too objected to the time spent on procedural squabbles, apologizing to constituents for the re-emergence of an old debate.

"I do the best that I can to lead every single meeting," she said, adding that being the mayor has been one of the biggest honors of her life.

Paradis said the proposed rules were "based in sexism and inconsistent with our values as a community." She attributed this to unconscious bias that the council has been unwilling to acknowledge or try to change.

She recounted being at a restaurant with several fellow nurses when a waitress, upon learning she had just served the mayor, assumed the mayor was a man who had stopped by to talk to Paradis.

When corrected, the waitress was "completely flabbergasted," Paradis said. "Then she found out she was speaking to the mayor, who happened to be a young, visibly queer woman."

Paradis described this as an example of "implicit bias," which can be different from someone's beliefs.

She asked the councilors to consider the privilege that contributed to where they are today, then asked them to consider how things were different when Hurley was mayor.

"I'm sure he had his own style," she said, "and I'm sure this never happened to him."

Hurley, who was mayor from 2000 to 2008 later disputed her characterization.

Speaking the next day, Paradis elaborated on her claim to have been treated differently, saying that, if she were a man, the councilors wouldn't have barred her from speaking on their behalf as they did late last year, or instituted the new speaking rules she feels are intended to keep her in order.

She pointed to a meeting last June — by most accounts the beginning of the troubles between the mayor and council — when Hurley and Harkness confronted members of the public who had criticized the council's backing of the Nordic Aquafarms salmon farm proposal. The exchange led her to believe the council didn't value some voices in the community, Paradis said, and in response, she requested a facilitated meeting about how city officials interact with each other and the public, to which the council begrudgingly agreed.

"I think when I took steps down that road, the council thought there was no problem interacting with the public," she said, "and that, in fact, I was the problem."

In November, Paradis wrote an op-ed in The Republican Journal, in which she said she had experienced "sexism, ageism and bigotry" in her time as mayor. Councilors took offense at the suggestion that they were the source of the bigotry, and at an emergency meeting voted to bar Paradis from speaking publicly on behalf of the council. They also voted to withdraw from a statewide mayor's coalition on which Paradis served. At the next meeting, the council rescinded its vote and the two sides appeared to reconcile their differences.

"I was really optimistic that we could move forward," Paradis said Wednesday, adding that she reached out to other councilors to get coffee but they wouldn't meet with her and refused to talk about the diversity training they supported at the facilitated session.

"There's never moving past this," she said. "There's not a willingness to do that work."