Published DateBy Daymond Steer
FRYEBURG — Three police officers, including the chief, have been suspended with pay following allegations made in an anonymous letter accusing police of "encouraging" teens to drink at a party hosted by a town road department employee. Selectmen have hired a Portland law firm to investigate.
An anonymous letter typewritten by "Fryeburg concerned residents" states that on Labor Day weekend, town road department employee Richard Parmenter and his wife Susan hosted their "annual drunken party" at their home at 9 Oxen Pull Road. Last week, the letter was sent to media outlets including The Conway Daily Sun.
"We have reliable information that Fryeburg police chief (Philip) Weymouth gave Richard Parmenter all the beer they took from the summer for the party, after he took Bud Lights for himself," states the anonymous letter. "There is also information and teenagers were there drinking the free beer and two officers allowed and encouraged it."
The letter came with two photographs allegedly taken from the party. One shows a woman crouching on a Fryeburg police truck with what appears to be a beer can in her hand. The other photo shows two smiling police officers, one of whom is standing arm in arm with a smiling woman with a can in her hand. Another man is standing behind the officers and holding a beer can above his head, as if to give a toast. The letter states that the woman in both photos is Susan Parmenter. The letter identifies the officers as Andrew Ward and Dale Stout.
The Parmenters didn't respond to requests for comment and the officers and Weymouth could not be reached. According to the Bridgton News, Weymouth said the allegations "'never happened."
The photos alone don't clearly show where or when they were taken. It's unclear if the information provided about the photos is accurate.
Town manager Sharon Jackson has confirmed that Weymouth, Ward and Stout have been been on a paid suspension pending an investigation by the Portland law firm of Troubh and Heisler.
"Anybody can put anything in an anonymous letter," said Jackson. "They can put lies in an anonymous letter because they know they aren't going to be questioned."
She said Lt. Michael McAllister is acting as police chief.
The decision to hire the law firm was made last Thursday night in a 2-0 vote. Chairman Rick Eastman had a planned absence.
Troubh Heisler attorney Jonathan Goodman will be charging the town at a rate of $180 per hour but other attorneys and staff may assist him. The town will also be responsible for mileage.
No highway department employees have been suspended. When asked if Susan Parmenter is the woman in the photo, Jackson replied, "That's the allegation."
The town of Fryeburg has six full-time police officers and 15 reserve officers, who are basically part time. Stout and Ward are reserve officers.
The next selectmen's meeting is Nov. 15.
In August, police broke up an alleged underage drinking party, which they believe had over 100 participants. Police arrested the person who allegedly hosted the party, Maggie McConkey, 18, of Oxen Pull Road. About 36 cars were towed from the scene, said patrolman Richard Murray.
Murray said at the time he hoped McConkey's arrest would send "the message" that underage drinking parties won't be tolerated in Fryeburg.