Millinocket whistle-blower awarded $30,000 in retrial

Posted Aug. 19, 2009, at 10:16 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:14 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The former Millinocket recreation department director who was fired for complaining about the safety of the town’s snowmobile trails was awarded $30,000 by a Penobscot County jury on Thursday.

The nine-member jury found the town of Millinocket violated the state’s Whistleblower Protection Act in 2005 when it laid off Mary Walsh of Lincoln through a series of town council votes.

The jury reached their decision at 9:40 a.m. Deliberations began at 2:45 p.m. Wednesday after Walsh’s attorney, A.J. Greif of Bangor, and the town’s attorney, Melissa Hewey made their closing arguments.

The trial, which began Monday, was the second time Walsh’s case was tried.

In September, a different jury awarded Walsh $25,000 in damages after finding that the town violated the state’s Whistleblower Protection Act in 2005 when it laid her off after five years on the job.

Walsh maintains she was fired because her reporting of hazardous snowmobile trail conditions threatened businesses owned by then Millinocket Town Council member Matthew Polstein, whom she said made the deciding 4-3 vote on a regional consolidation plan that left her without a job. The final vote came months after she started complaining, she said.

Polstein and the town claimed Walsh was a disgruntled former town employee who supported town consolidation until she learned she might lose her job. At that point, the town claimed, Walsh joined Polstein’s bitter political enemies to discredit him and save her job

Polstein described himself as a consistent supporter of consolidation efforts within the Katahdin Region. The town maintained Polstein would have voted that way regardless of Walsh’s actions.

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