June 24, 2018
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Couple claim wrongful firing by Rockland Institute

By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff

ROCKLAND, Maine — A Washington couple has filed a lawsuit claiming they were fired by by a Rockland organization that provides services to islands, after the husband and wife reported alleged illegal activity.

The lawsuit comes, however, less than two months after the Maine Human Rights Commission unanimously voted to find there were no reasonable grounds to find that the Island Institute of Rockland or the Port Clyde Community Groundfish Sector retaliated against James and Susan Frank of Washington.

The lawsuit on behalf of the Franks was filed Thursday in Knox County Superior Court against the Island Institute and Port Clyde organization — both of which are non-profit corporations.

The commission voted 5-0 at its Feb. 25 meeting to clear the organizations after Susan Frank argued her case before the board, according to the minutes of the human rights commission meeting.

Island Institute President-Elect Rob Snyder said he welcomes the opportunity to respond to the couple’s claim, but he had not seen the lawsuit which has yet to be served on the Island Institute. He pointed out the ruling by the human rights commission.

The Franks were hired in 2009, according to their lawsuit. James Frank was hired to assist in the creation of the Port Clyde organization due to his extensive experience in commercial fisheries and his familiarity with the Knox County fishing industry. Susan Frank was hired as data collection manager.

Both claim in the lawsuit that they were promised by the Island Institute that they would be hired when the Port Clyde organization was created. James said he was going to be the full time manager and Susan would be data collections manager.

The Franks allege in their lawsuit that during their work with Island Institute they became aware that the Institute was using illegal means to seek various state and federal grants for its own operating expenses. The couple claim that the the Island Institute was illegally seeking grants to pay stipends to board members of the Port Clyde organization even though the Island Institute was not paying those board members as they had represented.

The Franks allege that after they informed the Island Institute policy director and Port Clyde board of their concerns, they were warned not to “bite the hand that feeds you.” They also said in their lawsuit that within a week they were informed that their jobs were being terminated and they would not be employed by the Port Clyde organization.

The Franks seek various alleged damages including punitive damages against the organizations.

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