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Town manager defends his letter

December 16, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Hancock Town Manager Larry Logan claimed in a statement Monday that he was exercising free speech as a town citizen when he wrote a Jan. 25 letter that criticized a councilman running for mayor in the town's Jan. 28 election.

Logan said in the letter that he would never work as a town manager for the councilman, Darwin Mills, if he were elected mayor.

Logan's statement was submitted to the Hancock Ethics Commission during a hearing at Town Hall.

Logan did not attend the hearing, which was requested by resident Edward L. James.

James contends Logan's letter may have been an ethics violation and that Logan, as town manager, took sides in an election.

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The Ethics Commission did not make an announcement on whether it felt Logan's letter was a violation of the town's ethics ordinance or state code.

Commission Chairman Donald Corbett said the commission would discuss the letter privately after the hearing. He did not indicate when a decision would be announced.

The letter from Logan came after Mills spoke out about the town's health insurance policy in a Jan. 25 story in The Herald-Mail. Mills was quoted as saying the town had been issuing untaxed benefits checks to several employees who had opted out of Hancock's health insurance program.

Mills, who was running against incumbent Mayor Daniel A. Murphy for mayor, said he opposed the payouts and had been trying to put a stop to the procedure for years.

In a rebuttal to Mills' statements, Logan wrote in the letter that town residents would be looking for a new town manager if Mills were elected mayor, saying he would never work as town manager for Mills.

Mills lost by 44 votes to Murphy.

Logan submitted the letter on the Saturday before the election to The Herald-Mail as a letter to the editor and asked that it run before or on the day of the election.

The Herald-Mail did not publish the letter, because the editorial pages for those days were already printed. In addition, the newspaper's policy is not to run anything but get-out-the-vote type letters on election day.

James testified Monday that Logan told him he wrote the letter from his town office. Logan wrote in his statement to the Ethics Commission that he wrote the letter on his own time in his home.

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