Former Southwest Harbor town office worker Tabbetha Newenham. ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

Suit alleges wage fraud



SOUTHWEST HARBOR — The town has responded to a lawsuit filed by a former town office employee seeking unpaid wages with its own complaint accusing her of fraud.

Tabbetha Newenham, who was employed by the town from 2009 to 2016, filed a complaint in Hancock County Superior Court on March 8, alleging that the town owed her one day’s salary and cash in lieu of 203 hours of vacation time that she had accrued but didn’t use. The town’s personnel policy states that employees will be paid for all unused vacation time upon leaving their job.

The town, however, claims Newenham, whose duties included keeping payroll and vacation accrual records of town employees, added vacation time to her own account that she had not earned and without authorization. Vacation time is accrued at a rate based on the number of years an employee has worked for the town.

According to the complaint filed for the town by Matt Tarasevich and Ann Freeman of the law firm Bernstein Shur, Newenham added 40 hours of extra vacation time to her account in August 2010. In January 2012, she allegedly changed her vacation accrual rate from 1.54 hours per week to 2.31 hours per week and, in January 2013, to 3.08 hours per week.

“The maximum amount of paid vacation time [Newenham] was entitled to receive during her employment was 566.99 hours,” according to the complaint. Newenham used 723.15 hours of vacation time during her employment, 156.16 hours more than she was entitled to take, the attorneys state.

On Feb. 12, 2016, Newenham submitted her resignation, effective May 2 of that year. The day before announcing her resignation, Newenham accessed payroll records and changed her accrual rate from 3.08 hours per week back to the 2.31 hours, the rate she should have been using, according to the complaint.

Newenham’s manipulation of her vacation time wasn’t discovered until she was no longer employed by the town. Town Manager Don Lagrange notified her about a month before her resignation was effective that he had found a replacement and she was no longer needed. She was told she would be paid through May 2, which was to be her last day of work.

The town sent a letter to Newenham on May 13, 2016, demanding that she repay the town $4,192. She refused to pay, according to the complaint.

The town contends Newenham’s actions consist of fraud, breach of trust, negligent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment and conversion. These actions caused to town to suffer a loss of more than $13,000, according to the complaint. The town is asking the court to award it an amount that the case may warrant along with costs, legal fees and any other relief the court deems just and fair.

Newenham has not been charged with any crime. The matter has been referred to the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department.

During her tenure in the town office, Newenham served as associate finance director, deputy tax collector, deputy treasurer, deputy clerk and water-sewer administrator.

In her lawsuit against the town, Newenham is represented by John Hamer and Caitlyn Smith of Rudman Winchell. The single-count complaint simply alleges failure to pay wages. She states she was not paid for one eight-hour day and is owed 203.5 hours of vacation time. The claim notes she sent letters to the town in May and June of 2016, demanding payment.

In the town’s response, filed April 3, Tarasevich and Freeman admit that the town mistakenly did not pay Newenham for the one day of work but denies that the town ever received letters demanding payment for unpaid wages.

 

Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Mark Good

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