Log Cabin Chronicles

house

The Stanstead East municipal office is in a converted garage at the far end of the Lothrop's lovely home on the Curtis Neighborhood Road, about two miles from the U.S. border at Derby Line, Vermont.

Mayor under the gun

JOHN MAHONEY

POSTED 5 May 2000 | 8:30 a.m.

STANSTEAD EAST, QUEBEC | Mayor Harvey Lothrop, normally a gregarious man, is not a happy camper these days.

The mayor thinks his town council is out to get him.

And he firmly believes they are also out to get the municipal secretary/treasurer, who happens to be his son, Scott, who is suing the town in a job dispute involving money and duties.

LothropThis might seem like small-town paranoia but the thing about paranoids is that sometimes – regardless of the cause -- they're right.

Lothrop feels the majority of his six-member town council is harassing him, that they want him out of the job that he has held for more than a decade.

"They want to get rid of me and Scott," he says. "I'm tired of the harrassment."

The sequence of recent events appears to be the result of long-simmering resentment amongst some Stanstead East residents at the way Mayor Lothrop is perceived to run the town, and the appearance -- at least on the surface -- of a prime case of nepotism.

Lothrop's fed up, he says, and is considering resigning by November if – and there are two big "ifs" -- two serious situations are resolved to his satisfaction.

  • The town's finances are "in good shape." The town is owed more than $50,000 in governmental sales tax rebates. Council is complaining that the paperwork was never submitted, a claim Lothrop denies.

    He also wants the annual financial audit finished -- he doesn't want to leave the job and have his reputation besmirched by charges of dereliction of duty. He says that over the past decade he has saved the town more than $50,000 by his pre-audit work on the financial statements.

  • Scott Lothrop's job as secretary/treasurer is secured, and his law suit against the town settled in his favor.
"I just want to see the town on a good, even keel. They want to get rid of me and Scott," says Lothrop, who is a Chartered Accountant. "I'm tired of the harrassment."

Some of what Lothrop calls harassment includes:

  • Moving the municipal office from rented quarters in the Lothrop charming rural home on Curtis Neighborhood Road to the town hall on Route 143, a heavily trafficked north-south artery.

    The Lothrops charge $300 a month rent for the current office space. Estimated renovation costs at the town hall are approximately $10,000.

  • Removing his son's building inspector duties and travel allowance, thus reducing his annual income by some $10,000. In addition, council wants the town office open 30 hours a week, Monday through Friday, rather than two days a week.

  • Removing a $1900 budget line item for an assistant secretary/treasurer. This job was held by Brian Curtis, Mr. and Mrs. Lothrop's nephew, a former town councillor who resigned to become road commissioner.
house
The town office is through the last door at this end of the house.

(Until 1994, the job was held by Mrs. Lothrop, whose father and grandfather had held the municipal secretary/treasurer job. Indeed, the town office has been located in the Curtis Neighborhood – Mrs. Lothrop is a Curtis – for more than 75 years, according to the mayor. Even when the job was held by an anti-Lothrop employee – Wilfrid Gaulin – the office was just up the road in Gaulin's home.)

Councillor Roland Beasse, a neighbor but no fan of Mayor Lothrop, says the council merely wants to make good use of the town hall, a lovely old school house built in 1817.

Town Hall
Town Hall (circa 1817), Stanstead East, QC

Plus, they also want the town office out of the Lothrop house and they want the secretary/treasurer in the office, on the job, thirty hours a week Monday through Friday. They are relieving him of his building inspector duties and removing his travel allowance.

Stanstead East, according to Beasse, "has been run by Harvey…and that's not right."

"To the best of my knowledge," says Mayor Lothrop, "there never has been a complaint lodged – until this last election"

Lothrop's candidates were defeated and that's when his current troubles began.

Scott Lothrop, Beasse says, is being paid $33,000 a year and only working two days a week.

Lothrop was paid for being both secretary/treasurer and building inspector, and paid $250 a month in travel expenses to pick up the mail.

In addition, when winter came and there were no building permits to be issued, he claimed unemployment benefits for that part of the job.

Beasse said Lothrop was paid $10,000 to issue less than 50 building permits, most of which were done at the office and took less than fifteen minutes to prepare.

The council, Beasse says, had no idea that Lothrop was claiming unemployment for part of his job, part of the year.

Now, Mayor Lothrop confirmed on May 4, the government is looking into the matter. It seems as though someone had notified the government that Scott Lothrop had issued a building permit and attended a meeting during a period in which he had filed for unemployment.

Scott Lothrop's legal case against the town is slated to be heard before Quebec's Municipal Commission on May11-12. As it now stands he is working under the old rules – when I went to the town office on Thursday, May 4, to make some photographs it was closed.

Although the mayor believes there is a vendetta against him and his family, he says his wife is actually glad the town office is being moved.

"During the time that Scott has been secretary, I have been in three elections and won everyone of them…so I don't think the people are all that unhappy."

As for Beasse, he says the council doesn't want to have to pay for another election but that they are tired of the town being run without any control by the council members. And they are demanding "accountability."

So, I asked Mayor Lothrop, do you feel council is gunning for you?

"Of course," he said. "If anyone else was the mayor, Scott wouldn't be attacked. Council is using this [excuse] to go after me."

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Stanstead East (full-time pop. 700) is in Quebec's Eastern Townships. The current town office is about two miles from the U.S. border at Derby Line, Vermont, a stone's throw from Autoroute 55 – the Canadian end of I-95. The Lothrop's maple tree-shaded home was built by early settlers in 1802.]


Home | Stories | Opinions


Copyright © 2000 John Mahoney/Log Cabin Chronicles/05.2000