The city council in Portland, Maine voted unanimously at a Wednesday hearing to contract Live Nation for a summer concert series at the city-owned Maine State Pier. Live Nation won the bid after the city decided not to renew its contract with Alex Gray’s Waterfront Concerts which had put on the successful shows for the past three years.
Gray’s involvement in the concert series came into question when his ex-girlfriend, Erica Cole, accused him of domestic violence last year. In the fall, Gray pled guilty to a misdemeanor domestic violence assault.
While the council vote was a definitive 9-0 in favor of hiring Live Nation, the decision could be mainly symbolic. Waterfront Concerts has a partnership with Live Nation who could subcontract work on the series to Gray’s company.
Councilor Spencer Thibodeau told The Press Herald that the council plans to closely watch Live Nation’s actions going forward in regards to Gray.
“Some people have called it an empty gesture but it isn’t,” Thibodeau told the Herald. “This is not the only time we will consider this license. We will consider it every single year.”
Representing Live Nation at the Wednesday hearing was attorney, Bob Duteau. Duteau pleaded Live Nation’s case, suggesting the industry giant could use its staff in Massachusetts to work the Maine event. Live Nation’s attorney, however, did not commit to eliminating Gray entirely sharing that Waterfront had already sold 5,000 tickets for events this year.
“I’ve known Alex for a while and he’s been a true gentleman,” Duteau said, according to the Herald. “(But) if you don’t want Alex at those shows or on your property this summer, I can make that happen.”
Portland residents that attended the 90-minute hearing had mixed things to say about the promoter.
Cole herself attended the hearing and stated, “I owe it to myself and to the other women who are too afraid to step forward to do the right thing.”
Despite having pleaded guilty to the domestic violence months earlier, in February the city council voted unanimously to hire Waterfront Concerts for the fourth season of events. Earlier this month, Cole wrote a blog post asking the council to reconsider working with her abuser.
“By continuing to do business with Alex Gray and his companies, you are sending a message that domestic violence is acceptable in Portland,” Cole wrote. “You are also setting an example for young men and women that – in the city of Portland – money trumps morality.”
Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling said he believed Cole’s account and that he wanted to pull the contract entirely since Live Nation failed to properly condemn Gray’s actions.
On the other hand, Live Nation officials claimed that “people who know and work with Gray said that he has always been calm, poised and professional.”
In March of last year, Cole and Grey returned to the latter’s condo where he demanded to see his girlfriend’s phone. When she refused and tried to leave, Cole told police that Gray kicked her legs out from under her, put his hand on her throat, and banged her head against the floor. Cole has also reported that Gray was controlling and had subjected her to mental and emotional stress and “sexual degradation.”
An attorney for Gray argued that Gray had not been convicted of a crime, but that he pled guilty in order to avoid a messy trial and because it would be expunged from his record if he complied with 22 court-ordered conditions.