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Report alleges Skowhegan selectman violated town code, created 'hostile' environment

An independent investigation examined several complaints against Harold Bigelow, including that he used derogatory language and "dressed down" the town's fire chief.

SKOWHEGAN, Maine — An investigation into a Skowhegan selectman found he violated town policies and created a “hostile work environment.”

Selectman Harold Bigelow is accused of hurling derogatory statements at meetings, making fun of a town employee for wearing a mask, and using racist slurs, according to a report released by the town.

The report details at least six complaints against Bigelow, four of which are substantiated and two of which violated policy.

One complaint stemmed from Bigelow's debate with town officials at a selectmen board meeting in December 2021 over COVID relief bonuses for town employees.

“When this ‘plandemic’ first started, they shut the front doors. But it’s very obvious that the police were still out,” Bigelow said at the meeting.

Regular Selectmen's Meeting - December 14, 2021 @ 5:30 p.m.

Regular Selectmen's Meeting - December 14, 2021 @ 5:30 p.m.

Posted by Town of Skowhegan, ME on Tuesday, December 14, 2021

He argued the bonuses should not go to all town employees who worked throughout the pandemic, but only to first responders, including the town’s police and fire personnel.

Skowhegan Fire Chief Shawn Howard and others argued that every worker was entitled to the money.

According to the report, Bigelow “dressed down the fire chief in front of his subordinate employees” for the disagreement the next day.

Eventually, the report stated, Bigelow said he had to leave because his “black kids” were in the car, referring to his dogs.

“Several employees found the comment inappropriate,” the report noted.

Chief Howard did not immediately return NEWS CENTER Maine’s request for comment.

That was not the only complaint against Bigelow. The investigation also looked into allegations he used racist and sexist language.

One complaint alleged Bigelow used the N-word while “speaking to others before a selectmen board meeting.”

The investigation ruled that allegation was not substantiated, however.

Another detailed instance at an August 2021 meeting, in which he referred to “Mexicans” in a derogatory way when referring to a shortage of workers

"We have businesses that are going to close down because they can’t get help. They are third-generation and just can’t get help. You can’t get somebody to do a roof or sheet metal,” he said. “You see a lot of Mexicans doing it, though. Nothing against it…you’ve got to get the job done.”

The investigation found his comments did not violate the Town’s Code of Conduct but were “potentially discriminatory.”

“This is a diversion, I think,” Bigelow told NEWS CENTER Maine when reached by phone Thursday.

He denied any wrongdoing and said the investigation was an attempt to force him off the board.

"There's a lot going on in this town, and we have to be focused on it, not these trumped-up charges,” Bigelow said.

Skowhegan Town Manager Christine Almand would not comment on the report, calling it a “personnel issue.”

Todd Smith, the chairman of the board of selectmen, also would not comment.

The board is set to meet sometime in mid-February to address the investigation’s findings formally.

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