Town asks court to toss Young suit



BANGOR — The attorney for Bar Harbor is asking the court to dismiss all but one of the claims in fired-Police Chief Nate Young’s federal lawsuit against the town.

Attorney Mark Franco of Thompson and Bowie LLP called for the court to dismiss seven of Young’s claims in a motion for summary judgment filed Feb. 3 in U.S. District Court. If the court grants the motion, Franco writes, then an eighth claim by Young – that town councilors were biased in their decision to uphold his termination by the town manager – should be remanded to Maine Superior Court, which is the proper venue for Rule 80 proceedings.

The court earlier dismissed Young’s allegation that his due process rights had been violated when he was fired by then-Town Manager Dana Reed in January 2014, after serving 23 years as police chief. In the decision, the court ruled Young had failed to state a valid claim.

If the court grants the motion for summary judgment, there will be no federal trial. If the matter does go to trial, it will be heard before a judge and not a jury by agreement between Franco and Young’s attorney.

Young, in his lawsuit, asserts he was unjustly fired as a result of a September 2013 incident at the closed Town Hill Market, in which two Bar Harbor police officers, responding to a complaint, found him alone and slumped over in his parked pickup truck.

The incident prompted Reed to place Young on administrative leave while an independent investigation into the events of that night was conducted. Shortly after the investigation began, Young’s attorney notified the town that his client was at a substance abuse treatment facility and was requesting a leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a request approved by councilors.

The investigator concluded that Young was intoxicated when the officers arrived at the market and that he was hostile toward his officers, which “dissuaded them from taking appropriate action.”

After Young was terminated, he appealed to the Town Council, where members in a 5-2 vote upheld Reed’s decision to fire the chief.

Among Young’s contentions is that he is an alcoholic and the victim of discrimination under both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Maine Human Rights Act. Although alcoholism can be considered a disability, Young has failed to support his contention, Franco argues in his motion.

“Nathan Young does not assert that his alcoholism substantially limited his ability to work or any other major life activity for that matter,” Franco writes. “Quite to the contrary, he contends that at all times that he was employed as police chief that he was able to perform his duties and perform them well and that his ability to serve as police chief was never affected or impacted by his consumption of alcohol.”

Franco contends that Young’s alcoholism was not a factor in his termination and the former chief has failed to show otherwise. Reed had no knowledge of Young’s alcoholism when he placed Young on administrative leave.

“In fact, at this time, Young did not even consider himself to be an alcoholic,” Franco writes.

Instead, Franco contends, Young was terminated because of the conclusions in the investigator’s report and because he failed “to refrain from contact with town employees or witnesses” during the investigation as Reed had told him to do when placing him on leave. Additionally, Reed determined Young had violated numerous town and departmental standards.

Young also claims his firing was in retaliation for taking leave under the FMLA. Franco argues that Young has failed to present evidence to support his claim. This is by Young’s own admission, he writes.

Franco argues that the court should dismiss another of Young’s claims, that his employment contract was breached because the document only permits termination with cause. Basically, Young is asking the court to determine whether there was “sufficient cause” to fire him.

“If the claim is allowed to proceed, the breach of contract claim will essentially ask the court to substitute its judgment for that of the Town Council,” Franco contends.

Young also alleges that town officials violated the state’s Freedom of Access Act (FOAA) by holding 12 closed sessions where his job was discussed without notifying him of their intention. The law requires that an employee be invited to attend only if there are charges against that person or an ongoing investigation involving that person is to be discussed.

“Because these meetings involved discussions of the assignment and duties of employees that might violate privacy rights if held in public session, these executive sessions complied with the FOAA,” Franco writes in asking the court to dismiss this claim.

Young’s attorney Gregg Frame has not yet filed a formal response.

In support of the town’s motion, sworn affidavits from additional town officials have been filed. Those statements and the motion for summary judgment can be found with deposition transcripts and other previously posted documents at http://www.mdislander.com/maine-news/cops/documents-in-young-lawsuit-now-available

Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

Latest posts by Mark Good (see all)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.