The attorney for former Ogunquit Fire Chief Mark O’Brien has filed a complaint in York County Superior Court appealing O’Brien’s firing by Town Manager Pat Finnigan earlier this fall.
The complaint asks the court to vacate Finnigan’s decision and send the matter back to the Select Board with orders to reinstate him as Ogunquit’s fire chief with back pay, full benefits and paid legal fees.
Attorney James Clifford, of the Clifford & Clifford law firm in Kennebunk, filed the complaint on O’Brien’s behalf in York County Superior court on Nov. 16.
O’Brien was put on paid administrative leave by Finnigan on June 27 during an investigation into concerns brought to her by firefighters. Following the investigation Finnigan fired O’Brien on Sept. 18.
A contentious public appeal hearing was held by the Board of Selectmen on Oct. 9 at O’Brien’s request, with the board ultimately upholding his termination by a 3-2 vote.
The three selectmen who voted in support of upholding O’Brien’s firing, Charles “Bunky Waite,” Madeline Mooney and Bob Winn, are now subject to a recall effort by a citizen’s group upset with the decision.
During the appeal hearing in October, Finnigan said there were concerns brought to her about safety, careless administration of the department and O’Brien’s unprofessional manner with firefighters that created a toxic work environment.
O’Brien claims there was no attempt by Finnigan to raise any of these issues with him and that he did not know the reason for his termination.
“There was never a smoking gun,” O’Brien said after he was fired in September. “There were little things and I feel that it wasn’t grounds for firing. There was no disciplinary action prior to this.”
Finnigan testified at the October hearing that she held a meeting with O’Brien following the investigation done by town attorney Ann Freeman from the Bernstein Shur law firm, and offered him an opportunity to take responsibility for the issues that were brought forward.
“I was very disappointed in the responses from the chief, he took no responsibility for the issues that were brought forward. There was a lot of blaming other people, but not taking responsibility. If Mark had owned any of these things, we probably wouldn’t be sitting here today,” Finnigan said at the hearing.
In the complaint O’Brien’s attorney claims that Finnigan’s investigation was “biased and prejudicial” and she failed to show “just cause” for terminating his employment.