BAR HARBOR — Among the relief former police chief Nate Young is asking for in his lawsuit against the town of Bar Harbor is reinstatement as head of the town’s police department.
In an amended complaint filed Dec. 17 in U.S. District Court in Bangor, Young’s attorney, Gregg Frame, lays out six counts where he alleges the town of Bar Harbor violated his client’s rights leading up to Young’s firing in February and the subsequent upholding of that dismissal by the town council.
In count II of the complaint, Young alleges the town council violated state law and the town’s own policies during his administrative appeal of his termination as police chief. As relief, he is asking the court to return him to chief of the Bar Harbor Police Department and award him back pay, front pay and other damages the court deems equitable.
The other counts allege breach of contract, violation of Maine’s Freedom of Access Law surrounding executive sessions, failure to provide Young with reasonable accommodations under the Americans With Disabilities Act, discrimination under the Maine Human Rights Act and a violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act, as well as claiming the town council’s decision on his appeal was unconstitutional because it deprived the defendant of his due process rights,
Relief sought for these alleged violations include lost back pay, front pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages, liquidated damages and attorney fees.
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 involving a well-being check by Bar Harbor police on a truck parked at night at the closed Town Hill Market. Young was the sole occupant of that vehicle.
During the investigation, and while on leave, Young entered an out-of-state residential alcohol treatment program. According to court records, the investigator later concluded that Young was intoxicated when officers arrived to conduct the well-being check. Based on the investigator’s report about Young’s comportment that night, then-town manager Dana Reed fired Young on Jan. 22. Young appealed the decision to the town council, which, on Feb. 26, upheld the town manager’s decision.
In the amended complaint, Frame claims Reed was made aware of Young’s alcoholism during a May 2013 conversation between the two. At no time during the discussion was there any mention of Young’s alcohol use affecting his job performance, Frame wrote.
Reed himself later admitted that, prior to the incident in Town Hill, there was nothing in Young’s personnel file of a negative nature, according to the complaint.
Frame disputes the investigator’s conclusion, writing that the officers did not perform a sobriety check, were not directed by Young to leave the scene, and that at Young’s termination hearing, the officers testified that they were never ordered to violate the law.
Frame questions the validity of a report on the Town Hill incident done by Officer Larry Fickett, who was one of the responding officers. Earlier on the day of the well-being check, Young and Fickett had an interaction where Young expressed his displeasure that the officer, who was engaged at the time, was having an affair with Young’s daughter, the complaint states. Fickett also admitted he was upset at being called in to work that evening after requesting the night off, Frame claims.
In his report, Fickett asserted “he had seen things that his own partner noted he could not have seen,” Frame alleges. He does not specify what these “things” were.
Frame also alleges that the town council held at least 12 executive sessions to discuss Young’s case during the time he was on leave. Because Young was not notified of the discussions, as is his legal right, these actions violate state law, Frame maintains.
Young’s original federal complaint was stayed in July, pending consideration of a separate discrimination complaint he filed with the Maine Human Rights Commission. After the commission failed to consider the matter within the mandated 180 days, Young, as is his legal right, was issued a “right-to-sue” letter. That letter was issued on Nov. 20, thereby allowing the federal court proceedings to continue.
A Dec. 3 phone conference between Frame, the town’s attorney Mark Franco and U.S. Magistrate Judge John Nivision set deadlines for some of those proceedings. Young was to file his amended complaint by Dec. 17. The town’s attorney, Mark Franco, has until Jan. 3 to file a response.