Lewiston Mayor Shane Bouchard resigned Friday morning, capping a tumultuous week in which a woman with whom he allegedly had an affair publicly shared a series of racist and racy texts. She also accused Bouchard of sharing internal emails that she provided to him while working on the 2017 campaign of his Democratic rival.
Bouchard says he made the decision to resign out of consideration for his landscaping business and his family. Allegations against him were raised unexpectedly during the public comment portion of a Lewiston City Council meeting Tuesday night. Heather Everly Berube said she had worked on the campaign of Bouchard's political rival, Ben Chin, in 2017 and shared internal emails with Bouchard while they were having an affair. The emails were later used by the Maine GOP to personally attack Chin.
At a brief press conference Friday morning, Bouchard blamed the media for his current predicament.
"In this political climate where the media does not discriminate between facts and rumors, it is hard to be a public figure,” Bouchard said. “I'm not a perfect person, never claimed to be. I've made many mistakes in the past. I've also in the past been the victim of some very damaging rumors."
The Lewiston Sun Journal reported Thursday that Berube made public more than 150 text messages she exchanged with Bouchard. In one, Bouchard makes a joke that describes elderly black people sitting on a porch as "antique farm equipment." Bouchard apologized and told the paper that he says "stupid things and stupid jokes occasionally."
Bouchard did not take questions at his news conference, but vowed to fight the accusations against him.
"Over the last few days I have received an overwhelming amount of support from friends, family and colleagues and most have resoundingly given me the same message: stand and fight,” he said. “And I intend to do just that, but I cannot do that effectively from the mayor's seat. It's not fair to the people of Lewiston, and I strongly believe that fight will be fought better as a private citizen."
The Lewiston Police Department has confirmed that it is jointly conducting an investigation with the Maine Attorney General's Office into unspecified activity involving Bouchard and alleged by Berube, who also declined to discuss the issue.
Meanwhile, former City Council President Kristen Cloutier assumes the role of mayor until the end of the year. A Democrat, Cloutier also serves as a state representative. She says the past week has been a tough one for the city of Lewiston, but she says the community is resilient, and that she's prepared to lead.
"You know I think we have to focus on moving forward,” she said. “You know, it's always been my position that — I mean I grew up here. This is my hometown. I moved away, I came back. We want to encourage folks to do that same thing, either to stay or to come back. And so that's really where my focus is gonna be."
Cloutier says no members of the city council asked Bouchard to resign and that it was a decision that he had to make for himself.
Updated 6:19 p.m. March 8, 2019