Ex-town manager files 10-count suit against Milo

By Diana Bowley, BDN Staff
Posted March 05, 2009, at 9:54 p.m.

MILO, Maine — A 10-count lawsuit against the town of Milo that charges conspiracy, breach of contract, defamation of character and emotional distress was filed Thursday by former Town Manager Jane Jones in U.S. District Court in Bangor.

The lawsuit specifically names former Selectmen Richard Gallagher and Tony Hamlin and former and current Selectmen Joseph Beres and Jerry Brown as defendants, all of whom are being sued in both their individual and official capacities.

Jones, who has requested a jury trial, is seeking unspecified punitive damages, along with $17,000 for compensatory time reimbursement she claims is owed to her for the breach of her employment contract, and reimbursement for attorney fees.

Filed by lawyer Dale Thistle of Newport, the lawsuit claims the town and the four men violated Jones’ Fifth and Fourteenth amendment rights and the Civil Rights Act of 1871 when they terminated her in Nov. 1, 2007, after 17 years of service. She reportedly had had 16 years of “stellar” evaluations before her termination.

Contacted Thursday, Milo Town Manager Jeff Gahagan said he was surprised to learn a lawsuit had been filed, noting the town had not been served any paperwork. He declined to comment based on that.

The lawsuit contends the defendants conspired to remove Jones from office and conspired to place her on administrative leave for financial misconduct. She has denied ever mismanaging the fiscal accounts of the town.

“I categorically deny one penny has been mishandled under my administration,” Jones said after her dismissal. “I’m not rolling over, I’m not playing dead, and I’m not shutting up.”

Jones claims she was told in a Sept. 13, 2007, executive session that she would be suspended with pay for “insubordination.” She alleges she was not provided a written list of accusations against her that led to her suspension.

The lawsuit states that immediately after the executive session, Hamlin asked Milo Police Chief Michael Poulin to escort Jones from the building with her personal items and to secure the town’s computers. Selectmen then resumed their board meeting and announced that Jones had been placed on administrative leave for 45 days to allow selectmen time to investigate charges of alleged financial misconduct.

Jones claims the town denied her constitutional right to attend the regular board meeting that evening.

At the Sept. 13 meeting, Chairman Jerry Cole, who was upset with the action, quickly announced his resignation from the board and left the meeting, according to the lawsuit. Board members then elected Brown as chairman. He later served a dual role of chairman and acting town manager, but resigned from the latter position weeks later when it appeared it was a violation of the town’s charter.

On the morning of Sept. 15, 2007, Jones claims that selectmen held an unadvertised board meeting and entered an executive session to discuss her. Jones claims that soon after, allegations were made against her that said she had shredded public documents and had paid a town employee in a manner to avoid employment taxes.

The lawsuit alleges that Selectman Hamlin publicly degraded and insulted her at board meetings. Jones claims that on Nov. 3, 2006, Hamlin “told her that it would take six months to get her out of her job, but he would.” Hamlin then allegedly accused Jones at an August 2007 special town meeting of “fudging the figures” and frequently discussed her job performance in public board meetings, she claims in the lawsuit. She also alleges that Hamlin, without board approval, met with Gahagan about becoming the new town manager after she was fired. Gahagan later accepted the position.

http://bangordailynews.com/2009/03/05/news/piscataquis/extown-manager-files-10count-suit-against-milo/ printed on October 24, 2014