Former Farmington employee appeals termination after seven weeks on job

Posted Jan. 13, 2014, at 5:37 a.m.

FARMINGTON, Maine — A town department head who was terminated after seven weeks on the job is appealing the action in Franklin County Superior Court.

Nicholas Mayhew of Wilton has filed suit against the town after he was let go as wastewater superintendent Oct. 28 by Town Manager Richard Davis, according to court records.

Mayhew was hired in August to replace longtime Superintendent Steve Moore, who retired in July.

Mayhew left a well-paying position in the treatment plant at Verso Paper in Jay, where he worked for seven years. He started work for Farmington on Sept. 9.

In the court record, Mayhew claims he was orally terminated without notice on grounds that “things were not working out.” He requested a meeting with Davis on Nov. 5 to discuss his employment and was denied.

The town’s attorney, John Wall of Portland, contends the town manager’s decision to not meet with Mayhew was “consistent with Maine law and the town’s personnel policy.”

Under the policy, the town manager is allowed to terminate any employee during their probationary period without advance notice and it does not require him to hold a hearing.

All new employees of the town get a six-month probationary period.

The policy indicates termination is based on a department head’s recommendation, but Mayhew claims he was the department head.

The town contends the town manager is supervisor of all department heads and therefore doesn’t require a recommendation other than his own.

In a letter to selectmen, Mayhew said that when he was hired by the board and town manager, his qualifications were not questioned.

When hired in August, Davis said Mayhew met the town’s required qualifications for the position.

Mayhew said he made no mistakes or errors on the job but did take Oct. 21 off for his son’s heart surgery.

He claimed he was “wrongfully laid off Oct. 28 for no reason.”

The Board of Selectmen voted this year to allow Moore to continue working part time at the treatment plant under a new superintendent and to purchase health insurance through the town.

Davis charged Moore with training Mayhew, which Davis estimated would take a year, Mayhew said.

Mayhew claims Moore had “issues with the changing of the guard and had words with him on Oct. 2,” according to the court documents.

He also claims Davis told him on Oct. 3 that he was unhappy to learn Moore was unhappy and Mayhew was told “to keep (Moore) happy.”

Mayhew claims Davis met with Moore at the wastewater plant a couple times afterward. Mayhew said that on Oct. 23, Davis told him he had “real concerns about his mechanical ability and felt he couldn’t do the job.”

In the records, Mayhew contends that there are several safety issues at the plant that do not comply with state and OSHA regulations. He brought those up to Moore and Davis.

A motion seeking a trial, filed in December by Mayhew’s attorney Scott Lynch of Lewiston, claims bias and prejudice affected the decision to terminate Mayhew.

Mayhew claims Moore, on several occasions, told Mayhew he didn’t believe he was a Christian and made comments about his association with Freemasons.

In a response to the trial motion, filed last week, the town claims the contention of bias and prejudice is “vague or bare and not enough for trial.”

“Mayhew does not allege the town manager made statements about his religious affiliation or Freemasons,” the record stated.

Stephen Millett of Jay was hired as the town’s wastewater superintendent in November.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

 

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