Pot, pigs, politics: Lebanon officials accused of illegally taking animals, marijuana
Pictures show one of the pigs and marijuana plants that were taken{ }(contributed photo)

LEBANON (WGME) - Allegations of theft involving farm animals, two selectmen and marijuana plants are reaching a boiling point in York County.

Kelley's marijuana plants before they were taken (contributed photo)

The division in the town of Lebanon is sparked by an incident at a farm, which recently came to light during a Board of Selectmen meeting.

The I-Team has obtained a Maine State Police Incident report revealing what happened last August.

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According to the report, District Attorney Kathy Slattery decided in February not to prosecute the two selectmen accused of theft, but many in town say what happened isn't right.

York County District Attorney Kathy Slattery (WGME archive photo){p}{/p}

"These are all the farm animals I had," Eric Kelley told CBS13 while showing the I-Team pictures.

Nearly a year after they were seized by the town's animal control, Kelley is still fighting to get his animals back.

"Two cows, seven pigs, two goats, and 12 chickens," Kelley said.

Kelley's animals (contributed photo){p}{/p}

Kelley was in jail for a probation violation last summer when animal control alleged the animals weren't being taken care of.

"I was in jail for 17 days. They told me the pigs got out and asked me who to call. I told them to call my father. They intimidated my mother into signing them over. My mother wasn't in charge," Kelley said.

A police investigation found the animals were well groomed, showed no signs of distress and had large bellies.

While at the farm, Trooper Patrick Hall also noticed a greenhouse "filled with large, adult marijuana plans that appeared lush and well maintained."

Police say two town selectmen, Chairman Chuck Russell and Butch Lizotte, were among a group of people who later took those plants.

"They heard I was going to be in jail for two years, which is absolutely crazy, and they helped themselves to anything they wanted," Kelley said.

"I asked Russell specifically what authority he had to take the marijuana plants. He told me that he did not take any, he just helped other people do so. He stated that someone that needed the plants needed his truck to move them. He told me that he had no authority to take the plants. He told me that he took the marijuana plants because he did not want anyone else to take them." -Trooper Hall incident report
Chuck Russell, Lebanon Board of Selectman chair (WGME){p}{/p}
"I asked Lizotte what right he had to take the plants. He told me that he did not know what right he had but that he was following the orders of [REDACTED] and Russell." -Trooper Hall incident report
Butch Lizotte during June 17 Board of Selectman meeting (Lebanon)

Russell agreed to talk with the CBS13 I-Team about what he says happened.

Reporter: "Why did you and the other selectman take the plants?"
Russell: "I can't talk about that. It's not, I never had possession of the plants."
Reporter: "According to the report you told the trooper you took the marijuana plants because you didn't want anyone else to take them."
Russell: "Well, can I see that?"
Reporter: "Sure. This paragraph right here."
Russell: "Yeah, no, that's being misquoted there."
Reporter: "Is it common within your duties on the select board to take other people's property?"
Russell: "No and it wasn't. I never had possession of the plants. It was nothing to do with the town, but it was a safety issue."
Reporter: "You were there while the plants were being taken?"
Russell: "No, but I was up there, yes, while the plants were being taken, yes."

The report says selectman Lizotte had three of the 26 plants, but because large sections of the report are redacted, it's unclear who had possession of the rest of them.

"I have no comment for you guys other than most of the people who have been running their mouths are a bunch of liars," Lizotte told CBS13 over the phone.

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Lizotte told police he thought kids were going to take the plants and "repeatedly stated that he did not even smoke marijuana."

Reporter: Lizotte said he didn't know what right he had, but he was following your orders.
Russell: I don't know why he would say that.

The plants were eventually returned more than two weeks after they were taken but "had many brown leaves and appeared to be unhealthy" according to police.

Marijuana plants after they were returned{{ }}(contributed photo){p}{/p}
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Kelley questioned Russell during a contentious town meeting last week.

"Who's going to be responsible for the $130,00 to $200,000 loss I incurred because you stole my plants?" Kelley asked selectmen during last week's Board of Selectmen meeting.

"I don't know the answer to that," Russell said.

Slattery ignored our messages asking to talk about her decision not to prosecute the case.

Russell says the answer is simple.

"There was no ill intent," Russell said.

Reporter: "Do you think this is something the town selectmen would be involved in again or is there a lesson to be learned here?"
Russell: "There's a lesson 100 percent."
Reporter: "Which is what?"
Russell: "I think a little more forethought into what was happening."

"I felt like someone had pickpocketed me," Kelley said.

Russell told those at the town meeting Kelley would need to go to Superior Court to get his animals back.

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