Former Sangerville plumbing inspector sues ex-selectman over firing

Posted Sept. 23, 2011, at 3:46 p.m.
Last modified Sept. 24, 2011, at 10:12 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A former plumbing inspector for Sangerville has sued an ex-selectman in federal court over the inspector’s dismissal last year.

The attorney for Frank Ruksznis filed the lawsuit Sept. 23 in U.S. District Court alleging that the decision to illegally fire him was based on slanderous statements made by Lance Burgess in April 2010. In addition to slander, the complaint claimed that Ruksznis was denied due process because of the way he was dismissed.

He is seeking a jury trial, reinstatement, back pay and undisclosed amounts in compensatory and punitive damages, according to the complaint filed by A.J. Greif of Bangor.

“Frank has worked as a plumbing inspector for Sangerville and surrounding towns for 20 years,” Greif said Friday in an email. “He is good at what he does.”

“Lance Burgess both slandered Frank and took away his contracting position,” the attorney added.

Ruksznis, 51, of Sangerville served as plumbing inspector for the town from about 1992 until April 2010. He worked as an independent contractor, provided his own tools and kept his license up to date, according to the complaint.

In return, Ruksznis was paid 75 percent of the plumbing permit fee. The cost of that permit was not included in the lawsuit.

Ruksznis was dismissed at an April 22, 2010, selectman’s meeting after Burgess, 63, of Sangerville allegedly stated at a meeting on April 13, 2010, that there were concerns about Ruksznis’ job performance and his “less-than-quality decisions.”

Thad Zmistowski, the Bangor attorney for Burgess, said that his client acted properly in his capacity as an elected official.

“It is my client’s position that he said or did nothing improper respecting Mr. Ruksznis’s performance as the town’s plumbing inspector,” Zmitowski said Friday in an email. “The public has a right to know such matters as the continued necessity for Mr. Ruksznis’s services. My client, as a servant of the public in the capacity of a town selectperson, acted appropriately in sharing his thinking on a matter of public concern.”

Burgess resigned abruptly from the Board of Selectmen in April 2011, according to a previously published report.

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