Investigator says Old Orchard Beach employee’s claims of retaliation have merit

By Liz Gotthelf, Journal Tribune
Posted April 26, 2013, at 12:11 p.m.

OLD ORCHARD BEACH, Maine — According to an investigator with the Maine Human Rights Commission, there is reason to believe the public works department office manager was discriminated and retaliated against for engaging in activity protected under the Maine Whistleblower’s Protection Act.

According to an April 19 report by Maine Human Rights Commission investigator Michele Dion, former town employee Kelly Roy filed a report with the Maine Human Rights Commission on May 30, 2012, alleging that she was retaliated against after she engaged in protected activity under the Maine Whistleblower’s Protection Act.

Roy alleged the town retaliated and discriminated against her for complaints about financial activity, which she had reason to believe were illegal. Roy left her job in March, town officials said.

Roy was hired in December 2010 as the office manager for the public works department. According to a summary of her statement, Roy said she was asked in July 2011 to take on duties in the town’s finance department, and in December 2011, when then-finance director Catherine Saltz was hired, her duties in the finance department increased and were interfering with her job at the public works department. She said she was also concerned that some of the work she was asked to take on was inappropriate, due to her limited financial background.

Roy said that after Mark Pearson was hired as town manager in February 2012, she noticed violations of town purchase policies, child support payments were not properly applied through payroll for weeks at a time, bills were not being paid, the town’s contribution to retirement funds were not being paid and 1099 tax documents were not being properly issued.

Roy said she wrote a letter to her immediate supervisor in public works on Feb. 29, 2012, expressing her concerns about what she believed were violations of the law.

“I felt it was my duty as an employee of the town to report the problems of the finance department before serious harm occurred,” she said.

In the letter, she also resigned from her duties in the finance department.

Roy said after she resigned from her duties in the finance department, she was threatened with a reduction to 25 hours a week and had a temporary reduction from 40 to 35 hours a week. Roy said she was also refused a cellphone stipend by Pearson and required to punch in her hours on a time clock when her co-workers were not required to do so.

“I have experienced emotional pain, suffering, mental anguish and loss of enjoyment of life due to fears of losing my job and inaccurate and disparaging comments made about me by Old Orchard Beach officials to other staff, the community and me,” she said, according to the report.

Roy said she believed that these alleged acts and threats of discrimination were a direct result from the letter she wrote to her supervisor.

According to Dion’s report, the town, represented by attorney Glenn Israel, has stated there is no evidence to support a whistleblower claim. The town states that Saltz wrote a memo to Pearson on Feb. 27, 2012 stating concerns that Roy was not qualified to do the accounts payable work she was assigned. The town also stated that Pearson had developed a new policy on cellphone stipends and timekeeping based on need.

The town stated that Saltz asked the town council to reduce Roy’s hours to 25 a week and use the savings to hire a part-time person in the finance department.

The town stated Roy was given a temporary reduction of hours because she refused to keep track of her hours, and the town assumed she was taking a one-hour, unpaid lunch break. The town stated that after she agreed to use a time clock, the town paid her for all hours she claimed to work.

Dion said in the report that she found reasonable grounds to believe that Roy was discriminated and retaliated against by the town for engaging in a protected whistleblower’s act. Dion recommends conciliation between the two parties.

According to Maine Human Rights Commission Case Controller Cindy Albert, the town can submit a submission of disagreement.

If the commission does not receive a submission of disagreement, the case will go before the Maine Human Rights Commission on May 27, said Albert, and it will vote whether to accept Dion’s opinion.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/04/26/news/portland/investigator-says-old-orchard-beach-employees-claims-of-retaliation-have-merit/ printed on July 22, 2014