December 29, 2016
By GAYLA CAWLEY
SWAMPSCOTT — The search for an interim harbormaster has hit another roadblock.
The Board of Selectmen was set to vote on an interim harbormaster at their Jan. 4 meeting, but the matter has been pushed until their Jan. 18 agenda.
“I had one candidate that I was ready to recommend to the board of selectmen and he called me this morning, and told me he had a change of heart and that he would not be accepting the position,” said Gino Cresta, interim town administrator and department of public works director, on Thursday. “So, back to square one. I’m hoping to have somebody to recommend to the board of selectmen for the meeting on the 18th.”
Cresta said the yearly stipend for the harbormaster position is $7,500.
Harbormaster Lawrence Bithell remains on paid administrative leave. He was arraigned in Lynn District Court in October on criminal charges for his use of an expired license plate.
Bithell last appeared in court for a pretrial hearing Dec. 12, which was continued until Jan. 23, according to the Essex County District Attorney’s office.
Cresta and Naomi Dreeben, chairwoman of the board of selectmen, said Bithell remains on administrative leave because waterfront towns are required by state law to officially have a harbormaster in place. Dreeben said he’ll be taken off leave when an interim harbormaster is selected.
Bithell is facing charges of attaching or concealing a registration plate, use of an uninsured trailer and use of an unregistered trailer. He was also issued a citation for misuse of an official number plate.
Dreeben said a permanent harbormaster will be appointed within the next year. For both the interim and permanent position, she said town officials are looking for someone who has boating experience, is responsible, fair, organized, has good interpersonal skills and is able to help people down at the waterfront.
Bithell’s charges stem from an Aug. 15 complaint received by police about the misuse of a registration plate, assigned to a town-owned gray 2007 Load Rite utility trailer, according to a police report from Lynn District Court.
Photographs from June and August showed the same plate affixed to two different trailers, a Highlander brand pulled by Bithell’s truck and a ShoreLand’r trailer carrying a small power boat.
Bithell told police the ShoreLand’r trailer belonged to Assistant Harbormaster Mounzer Aylouche. He told police he used Aylouche’s trailer to move his boat in August without his knowledge, according to the police report.
Police located the town-owned trailer, along with an additional town-owned trailer, at Ryan Marine Services on Lincoln Avenue. Both were without plates. The owner of Ryan Marine said it was brought there inadvertently. Bithell was unaware it had been moved from the yard at the town of Swampscott water tower. The plate, which Bithell told police was located in the back of his truck, was returned to Town Hall, according to the police report.
Gayla Cawley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.