Old Orchard Beach retaliated against public works employee, commission finds

By Liz Gotthelf, Journal Tribune
Posted May 22, 2013, at 1:33 p.m.

OLD ORCHARD BEACH, Maine — The Maine Human Rights Commission has concluded the former office manager of the Old Orchard Beach Public Works Department was retaliated against by the town, in violation of the Maine Whistleblower’s Protection Act.

Kelly Roy filed a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission in May 2012 alleging the town retaliated and discriminated against her after she made complaints about financial activity that she believed to be illegal.

Roy was hired as the public works office manager in 2010. She quit the position earlier this year.

According to a report filed by Maine Human Rights Commission investigator Michele Dion last month, Roy said she was asked in 2011 to take on additional duties in the town’s finance department. Later that year, after former finance director Catherine Saltz was hired, Roy said her duties in the finance department were increased and began to interfere with her duties in the public works department, and Roy was concerned some of the work she was asked to take on was inappropriate, given her limited financial background.

After Mark Pearson was hired as town manager in February 2012, Roy said 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, according to the report.

Roy wrote a letter to her supervisor in the public works department on Feb. 29, 2012, expressing the above mentioned concerns, and resigning her duties in the town finance department, according to the report.

Roy said after she resigned her duties from the finance department, her hours were temporarily cut from 40 to 35, and she was threatened with a reduction to 25 hours a week. She said she was denied a cellphone stipend by Pearson and forced to use a time clock, though her coworkers were not.

Roy said these actions were a direct result from the letter she wrote to her supervisor, according to the report.

The town’s attorney, Glenn Israel, stated there was no evidence to support a whistleblower claim, according to Dion’s report. Israel said that Saltz wrote a memo to Pearson on Feb. 27, 2012 relaying concerns that Roy was not qualified to do the accounts payable work to which she was assigned. Also, Pearson had developed a new policy for stipends and timekeeping, according to Israel.

Saltz had asked the town to reduce Roy’s hours to 25 a week and use the savings to hire a part-time employee in the finance department, according to Israel’s statement in Dion’s report. Israel also stated that 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. After Roy agreed to use a time clock, the town paid her for all the hours she claimed to work, according to Israel’s statement in the report.

The Maine Human Rights Commission voted Monday on Roy’s case against the town.

Amy Sneirson, executive director of the Maine Human Rights Commission, said in an email Monday that the commission found reasonable grounds that Roy was retaliated against in violation of the Maine Whistleblower’s Protection Act.

Sneirson said the two parties are asked to meet with her and the commission’s compliance manager in Augusta for a conciliation meeting. The parties have 90 days to attempt conciliation, she said.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/05/22/news/portland/old-orchard-beach-retaliated-against-public-works-employee-commission-finds/ printed on December 18, 2014