Council adopts new rules, deepens divide with mayor

Paradis says 'implicit bias' behind latest action; councilors say its about order
By Ethan Andrews | Mar 07, 2019
Ethan Andrews Mayor Samantha Paradis looks toward the back of the City Council Chambers on March 5 during a discussion of meeting procedures she said were created to limit her speech.

Belfast — 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."

Comments (10)
Posted by: Mark Kuzio | Mar 14, 2019 13:30

It's gone beyond any sense of rationality or comprehension.  More words are no longer needed from our community.  Either step down or begin a recall.  Let the inevitable law suit follow from the Mayor and let's put the embarrassment behind us.

Posted by: Kenneth W Hall | Mar 14, 2019 07:22

It is so ironic that young people who claim ageism have discovered that claiming ageism is trying to do to an older person the exact same thing the younger person is complaining about.

Posted by: Leslie Lavender | Mar 12, 2019 09:22

But, but, but, Martha, that is EXACTLY what the mayor believes.

Posted by: Martha H. Ortmann | Mar 11, 2019 17:54

A young person claiming ageism is like a white man claiming (racial) discrimination. Ageism is when young people think that older people can't have new and bold ideas, aren't flexible and inclusive, aren't curious and creative, and don't care about the world they leave behind.

Posted by: Jennifer Hill | Mar 08, 2019 14:38

What a courageous woman! Absolutely stunning.

Posted by: Domenic Ruccio | Mar 08, 2019 13:53

So we finally have "evidence" from the Mayor that the City Council is rife with bigotry. We’ve all been waiting for her to substantiate those charges.  And she finally has: a waitress failed to recognize her and expressed surprise that the Mayor of Belfast was female.  From that horrific, soul crushing experience she extrapolates that Council members have discriminated against her based on her age, her gender, and her sexual preference.  That's it, that's the evidence, one comment by an overworked waitress.  I find it difficult to believe that in the suit the Mayor will inevitably bring based on claims of sexual, gender and age discrimination, that 12 reasonable people will find City Council members guilty of discrimination based on that.

However, another jury may well find the Mayor guilty of slander and libel based on her spoken and written statements accusing Council members of sexism, ageism and sexual preference bias without a shred of supporting evidence.  Other, of course, than that one offhand comment by a waitress.

Can we please simply cut to the chase here.  Someone launch a recall initiative to remove the mayor from office as unfit for the position based on her documented bias and overt hostility toward straight, white, male Council members, let her sue the city for sexual harassment passed on her gender and sexual preference and let's move on.  Enough of the city's time and energy has been accorded to this mayor and her narcissistic personality disorder, which is what this is really all about.  Let her stand up under oath and document for a jury those instances in which Council members have subjected her to discrimination based on her gender, sexual orientation and age.  Let a jury decide whether the mayor has been discriminated against or whether the mayor has some pretty obvious and profound personality disorders wrapped up in far-left identity politics and strident victimhood.

Enough of this nonsense.  Time to draw a halt to the Mayor's continual embarrassment of the City of Belfast as well as the gay and female communities of Belfast.  She is a shallow thinking ideologue with a need to dominate others; a one-note Johnnie singing loudly from the far-left hymnal of perpetual victimhood.  In the final analysis, she does not appear able to offer the City of Belfast much more than that.  She sure hasn’t to date.  Time for her to go.  With the best of intentions Belfast voters made a mistake and are paying for it.  Let's rectify that mistake with a recall and let the adults get back to the business of efficiently running Belfast without having to deal with an immature egomaniac with a persecution complex. 



Posted by: Steven Hutchings | Mar 08, 2019 11:23

The conflict here is about one person and her determination to hide behind her sexual orientation and her youth and she uses both as a shield and a spear. The problem is her personality, She has neither respect for the office or respect for the council and totally ignores how many years they have volunteered and what they have accomplished. It all takes sacrifice, compromise and just decent respect. The council does not hide behind their experience or age or gender. The are out front and have spent years learning the political ropes and how to govern and how to lead. Respect is earned by how you deal with people, how much you accomplish and how you lead Belfast in this century. The mayor is immature and uses the office as her own personal weapon to draw attention to herself.  It is obvious that she is way over her head, can't get along with people that are not like her or agree with her, has her own personal agenda and quite frankly in her need for personal publicity has disgraced herself and the town. My advice  is to 1. Grow up, you represent a great town and you are doing a very poor job. 2. Learn that it is not about you, it is about the office. 3. Your gender and sexual orientation is not the issue even though you constantly accost people with it. Your personality, your immaturity and your lack of respect for others is the problem. 4. Learn humility and gain maturity and understand the office is not a bully pulpit and should not be abused which you constantly do. 5. Do the right thing for the town and the rest of us and resign.

Posted by: GLENICE ELKINS | Mar 08, 2019 10:07

As a citizen of Belfast who watches the city council meetingd faithfully, I have never witnessed ageism, sexism or bigotry displayed from the council members toward Madam Mayor Samantha Paradis. Perhaps Samantha you should consider the definition of slander before continuing to make such accusations.

Slander: (noun) the action of making a false spoken statement damaging to a person's reputation ...........(defamation, defamation of character, character assasination, misrepesentation of character, false accusation, insult, untruth)

Posted by: Kenneth W Hall | Mar 07, 2019 20:00

I have expressed in the past that I find the use of "queer" as extremely offensive yet.  What needs to be done to STOP the use of that word.  Gay people throw that word around like African Americans throw around the word *n@##*%"    This paper knows my feelings about the hurt and hostility words hurt.


My two cents worth is, the Mayo would be best be a leader whom represents and markets the City of Belfast.   The Mayor sits in the middle of the room and runs the room like a leader.  The Councilors take on a task on the agenda lead by the Mayor.  The Mayor recognizes the different districts of the City from district the Councilor represents.  The Councilor speaks and shares his contacts from their constiuences to the full council.  The Mayor should not be silenced HOWEVER, she should wait until the entire City being represented by their Councilors have been debated.  Then the Mayor has ALL the information from the entire community.  The most effective leaders listen and analyze all the ideas.  As I said before, God gives us two ears and one mouth and should  use them accordingly.

I repeat though that any use of the word "queer"  is highly offensive and personally want the Mayor and her supporters to terminate the use of the word.


I would like to teach every one.  Everyone has skin!   Why waste time on what color it is?  I would like to teach everyone ages.  Anyone not older today then they were yesterday?  Finally, the word "bigot" plain and simple is if that word flows from your lips, you you are a"bigot".


Again, I beg Village Soup/Republican Journal to stop using the offensive word.

Posted by: Seth Thayer | Mar 07, 2019 18:09

They mayor is gaslighting herself.  For one, she is on state radio with  Ric Tyler describing her predecessor as a 72 year old mechanic who is a product of white privilege.  When Tyler called her out on the ageism in her response, she glossed right over it.  Again, caught on camera this time, she is seen trying to silence a councilor who didn't hold her view on the item being discussed. Where is her proof that she is fighting ageism, sexism and bigotry??  The proof that she is an ageist herself and that she is comfortable silencing dissent from councilors is caught on tape.

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