Bar Harbor officials ask court to dismiss former police chief’s claims

Nate Young

Nate Young

BANGOR — The town of Bar Harbor is asking the court to dismiss the remaining six counts in former Police Chief Nate Young’s federal lawsuit in which he claims he was unjustly fired in January 2014.

The May 15 filing in U.S. District Court by Mark Franco, the town’s attorney, is in response to a December 2014 amended complaint filed by Young and his attorney, Gregg Frame.

The town’s filing follows a May 13 court order that dismissed in full one of the counts of the lawsuit. In that order, U.S. Magistrate Judge John Nivison also found Young’s claims of the town violating his due process rights and its failure to “accommodate” his disability under the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Maine Human Rights Act (MHRA) to be invalid.

Young contended his alcoholism is a disability under federal and state law, and therefore, his employer, the town, should have accommodated this disability. Young, in court documents, has not said what accommodations the town should have made.

In Franco’s filing, the town denies Young’s allegation that then-Town Manager Dana Reed was aware of Young’s alcoholism through a discussion the two had in May 2013. In addition, the town asserts that Young “specifically denied that he suffered from alcoholism” prior to his firing. It was only after being suspended that Young indicated he was an alcoholic, Franco contends.

Young was placed on administrative leave with pay on Oct. 1, 2013, while an investigator hired by the town looked into an incident a week earlier. Bar Harbor police went to the closed Town Hill Market for a well-being check after a passerby reported a suspicious truck parked there. Young was the sole occupant of that vehicle.

While the investigation was underway, Young entered an alcohol treatment program. The investigator later concluded that Young was intoxicated when officers arrived to conduct the well-being check. Based on the investigator’s report, Reed fired Young on Jan. 22, 2014. Young’s appeal to the town council regarding his termination was unsuccessful.

The six counts the town is asking the court to dismiss are Young’s allegations of breach of contract, violation of Maine’s Freedom of Access laws, the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Maine Human Rights Act (MHRA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and that the town council violated the state’s civil procedure rules in denying his appeal.

In his amended complaint, Young alleges that his contract stipulated that he could be terminated only “with just cause.” Young claims this was not the case, and therefore, his contract was breached.

Franco, in his response, denies that Young’s contract specified dismissal only for “just cause” or that the town violated the employment agreement.

Young alleges town officials violated Freedom of Access laws by holding a dozen executive sessions where his employment was discussed. He claims this violated the law because he, as the employee under discussion, was to be provided notice and allowed to attend.

The town denies holding illegal executive sessions and that Young suffered damages because of these actions.

Young also alleges that he was terminated “because of his disability and/or in retaliation for availing himself of his rights” under ADA.

The town denies the latter allegation.

The town also denies that Young’s rights under the MHRA were violated. In this count, Young claims he “has suffered” because of this violation and is entitled to damages that include lost wages and benefits as well as compensatory damages for “emotional pain and suffering and lost enjoyment of life.”

Young claims he requested a leave under the FMHA to seek treatment for alcoholism, and upon completing the program, requested a return to work, which was denied. He additionally alleges that he was fired in retaliation for availing himself of his rights under FMHA.

The town denies these allegations as well as Young’s claim that town councilors abused Rule 80B administrative procedures regarding his appeal of his firing. The decision, he alleges, “was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, legally erroneous” and “unsupported” by the evidence.

In his filings, Young charges that several town councilors already had made up their minds to uphold his dismissal prior to his appeal.

Young directed his attorney not to respond to requests for comment.

Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

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