BANGOR — The attorney for fired Police Chief Nate Young is opposing the town of Bar Harbor’s motion for summary judgment in Young’s federal lawsuit.
Young’s attorney, Gregg Frame, filed his opposition to the town’s motion in U.S. District Court on March 9. The town’s attorney, Mark Franco, filed the motion for summary judgment in early February, asking the court to dismiss all but one of Young’s claims without the matter going to trial.
Frame argues that the court should grant a summary judgment only when there is no real dispute as to the facts of a case. In Young’s case, there is enough real disagreement on the issues for the court to deny the town’s motion, Frame stated in his opposition.
Young filed the lawsuit in March 2014, asserting he was unjustly fired in January of that year as the result of an earlier incident at the closed Town Hill Market where two Bar Harbor police officers, responding to a complaint, found Young, who was then Bar Harbor police chief, alone and slumped over in his parked pickup truck. Young was terminated after an investigator hired by the town concluded the chief was intoxicated and hostile toward the officers when they arrived at the store. Young was placed on administrative leave while the investigation was underway, and during that time, sought treatment for alcoholism at a facility in Pennsylvania.
Following his termination, Young appealed then-Town Manager Dana Reed’s decision to the Town Council. The council, in a 5-2 vote, upheld Reed’s decision to fire the chief.
If the court grants the town’s motion for summary judgment, the decision would effectively result in dismissal of seven of the eight claims in Young’s lawsuit. The eighth claim – that town councilors were biased in their decision to uphold Young’s firing – should be remanded to state court, which is the proper venue for Rule 80 hearings, the town’s attorney argued.
Among Young’s contentions is that he is an alcoholic and the victim of discrimination under both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Maine Human Rights Act (MHRA). The town has argued that the former chief has not asserted that his alcoholism substantially limited his ability to do his job and only considered himself an alcoholic after he sought treatment.
Frame contends town officials were aware of Young’s “drinking problem” in early 2013 and that there were comments made by town councilors that the chief has “got to go.” These facts “lend evidence to the contention that Young was regarded as disabled,” Frame wrote.
Young also is claiming his firing was in retaliation for taking leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The town argues that Young has failed to present evidence to support this claim. Frame disagrees.
“Here Chief Young can show by a preponderance of the evidence that he was entitled to the leave he took under FMLA and that his substantive rights were deprived because he wasn’t offered his job back as required under the act,” Frame writes. Young requested that he return to his job but was denied, he continued.
Young additionally 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. That was not the case, the town contends.
Frame disagrees and offers the concerns expressed by Robert Garland and Christopher Walsh, who were members of the Town Council at the time, as evidence that Young was discussed specifically and the law broken.
“One councilor [Garland] was so concerned about the inner workings of the council that he took the drastic measure of sending a sealed letter to his attorney outlining the improprieties in the process,” Frame wrote.