BANGOR – A federal judge’s recommendation in former Police Chief Nate Young’s lawsuit against the town of Bar Harbor is seen as a victory by both the plaintiff and the defendant.
Magistrate Judge John Nivison on April 23 found that some claims in Young’s lawsuit were admissible, while others should be dismissed. Nivison cleared the way for the admissible claims to go forward by granting Young’s motion for a trial on the facts.
Young, in an email to the Islander, has said he is “very pleased” with the decision. His attorney, Gregg Frame, echoed his client’s assessment Tuesday in a phone interview.
“We’re elated,” Frame said. The goal of the town’s motion to dismiss was to remove many of Young’s claims from the lawsuit. The fact that Nivison is recommending that some of those claims move forward and also granting Young’s motion for a trial on the facts gives validity to the case, Frame said.
Mark Franco, attorney for the town, said he is puzzled by Young being “pleased” by the decision. To Franco, the ruling clearly favors the town.
“The judge essentially dismissed everything I asked him to,” Franco said. “I’m actually ecstatic about the decision because the crux of the case was dismissed.”
In his April 23 U.S. District Court decision, Nivison found Young does have a claim of discrimination because of a disability as recognized by the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Maine Human Rights Act (MHRA). Nivison additionally ruled Young has a stated claim regarding the town violating his rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Young, however, has failed to state a valid claim that his due process rights were violated during the events leading to his firing in January 2014, Nivison maintained.
The judge also recommended that Young’s claims of the town’s failure to “accommodate” his disability under the ADA and MHRA be dismissed.
Franco points out that just because Nivison cleared the way for a trial on the facts, a trial may never be held. The next step, he said, is the discovery process, which he expects to last through the summer. After discovery, Franco said he then will file a motion for a summary judgment asking the court to dismiss the case.
“There may or may not be a trial,” he said.
Young was placed on administrative leave with pay on Oct. 1, 2013, while an investigator hired by the town looked into an incident that happened a week earlier. Bar Harbor police went to the closed Town Hill Market for a well-being check after a passer-by 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, then-Town Manager Dana Reed fired Young on Jan. 22, 2014. Young’s appeal to the town council regarding his termination was unsuccessful.