An unsigned letter sent to residents of Eastport has brought the city manager and city councilors under fire after it revealed she was subject to a court martial when she served in the Army and that she declared bankruptcy after being dismissed from the military.

City manager Kate Devonshire acknowledged the statements were true but defended her record despite her past mistakes.

An unsigned letter mailed to more than 800 Eastport property owners on May 25 alleged that Devonshire “duped” the city council when she was hired in April 2021 by not disclosing her legal problems.

The letter also alleged that Devonshire, who had no prior municipal management experience, is unresponsive to citizens, has done a bad job of managing the city’s finances and is proposing a significant tax hike to fund large increases in the city budget. The city budget, however, is currently projected to increase on July 1 from $5,958,158 to “just over $6 million,” according to Devonshire.

But the allegations aren’t all untrue.

Devonshire said that after she was sexually assaulted while serving in the Army, she coped by taking medication she had been prescribed and by using synthetic cannabinoids, which at the time were legal for civilian use though not by members of the military. She didn’t report the assault, she said.

“I went through some horrific things in the military,” Devonshire, 39, said Monday. “I made poor choices.”

The furor over Devonshire’s previously undisclosed legal problems and criticism of her job is the latest upheaval in Eastport, which since 2010 has had 10 police chiefs and six city managers. The city struggles to attract and keep its top staff for the long term.

“Devonshire’s total lack of leadership and vision is fiscally irresponsible and has enabled a culture of disrespect and hostility to fester in the community,” the letter said.

Last spring, the city council also hired Andrew Little to be its new police chief, but he died last week about a month after being diagnosed with cancer.

In 2011, while serving as an Army captain at Fort Sill in Oklahoma, Devonshire was convicted of “seven specifications of violating a lawful general order, four specifications of wrongfully using a controlled substance, one specification of wrongfully possessing a controlled substance, and two specifications of wrongfully distributing a controlled substance,” according to military court documents.

She was ordered to serve six months of confinement but later successfully appealed part of her sentence that required her to forfeit all pay and allowances. She said she did not remember enough about the specific charges in her court martial to be able to comment on them.

“It was so long ago,” she said. “How is airing this moving the city forward?”

Her financial troubles arose after she was dismissed from the Army, she said.

Devonshire said she filed for personal bankruptcy when she went from being paid $75,000 a year and sharing expenses with a husband to being divorced, living on her own and tending bar while attending school full time to get a master’s degree in business administration. She said she struggled to pay her debts and, having yet to emerge from bankruptcy, still pays $250 a month to her creditors.

The bankruptcy came up when the city conducted a background check on her when she applied for the city manager job, she said. Military court records are not included in typical criminal background checks, she said, so her court martial did not come up prior to her being offered the job.

“I did not lie about anything,” Devonshire said. “I have nothing to hide.”

As for the city’s finances, Devonshire defended her management. Property taxes for the 2021-22 year went down from the prior year, she said. She has approved pay raises for city staff, but the council has yet to vote on or make adjustments to the proposed 2022-23 budget of roughly $6 million. The council is expected to approve a final budget for the coming year later this month, she said.

The anonymous letter also criticizes three of the city’s five elected city councilors for voting at the end of April to give Devonshire a 3-year contract extension, despite what it says was “objections from many in the community.” Council president William Boone and fellow councilor Floyd “Bub” Andrews voted against the contract extension, while councilors Jeanne Peacock, David Oja and Ross Lawrence voted in favor of it, according to city clerk Ella Kowal.

“Council members Peacock, Oja and Lawrence have been unwilling to acknowledge, let alone accept responsibility, for this unfortunate failure in the hiring decision,” the letter said.

Devonshire said that her contract pays her an annual salary of $56,000 a year with annual increases of 3 percent each year.

Lawrence called the anonymous letter “a coward’s attempt to assassinate someone’s character.” He confirmed that Devonshire’s bankruptcy did come up during her background check, before she was offered the job, but that her court martial did not.

He has since talked to Devonshire about her military record, and is satisfied that the reasons for her dismissal from the Army are irrelevant to her current job, he said. He noted that recreational marijuana use is now legal in more than a dozen states, including Maine, but is still banned in the military.

“I wish she had brought it up, but I am pleased with the city manager’s job performance,” Lawrence said. “She wasn’t trying to hide anything.”

Last week, Boone declined to comment on Devonshire, saying any issues concerning her employment with the city is a confidential personnel matter.

Peacock and Oja also each declined to comment Monday on the anonymous letter or on the city manager’s job performance or past legal issues, while Andrews did not return a message seeking comment.

The criticism of Devonshire and the death of Little come roughly a year and a half after their predecessors were publicly scrutinized and then terminated from their jobs.

In January 2021, Eastport fired Thomas Hoskins II, who also had no municipal management experience prior to serving as Eastport’s city manager for a year. Before being fired, Hoskins had fired Little’s predecessor as police chief, Peter Harris. The council later overturned Hoskins’ decision and offered Harris his job back, but Harris declined the offer.

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....