Westbrook officials have restored the rank of Lt. Donald Trafford of the city’s Fire and Rescue Department.

Trafford, who was demoted from lieutenant to firefighter in December, will receive back pay for the difference in rank, said Dan Walsh, a business agent for Teamsters Local 340, which represents firefighters and rescue workers.

Trafford was demoted by city officials after an investigator looked into allegations by a female firefighter that Trafford had made her feel uncomfortable during a conversation.

Howard Reben, a lawyer for Teamsters Local 340, said the city’s investigator failed to interview three witnesses who may have heard the verbal exchange. Reben said city officials subsequently interviewed those witnesses and determined that the incident did not justify Trafford’s demotion.

“I think it was the right decision,” Walsh said. “There were some mistakes made on the city’s part as far as how they handled the situation.”

“The union is very pleased that the city was astute enough to do its own investigation,” Reben said. “Don is 100 percent vindicated.”

Trafford could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The demotion was Trafford’s second since December 2008. The first was related to sexual harassment claims by two female firefighters. Reben said the second demotion did not involve sexual harassment.

In 2008, firefighter Lisa Theberge filed a complaint against the city with the Maine Human Rights Commission, alleging about 150 incidents of sexual harassment involving 20 firefighters, including Trafford.

City officials investigated the complaints and disciplined seven firefighters in December 2008 for inappropriate actions and language in the workplace, or for failure to deal properly with issues that contributed to a hostile work environment. Among them was Trafford, who was demoted to firefighter.

Trafford had his rank restored in June by the state’s Board of Arbitration and Conciliation. At the same time, the board extended Trafford’s suspension from one week to two weeks.

Theberge and firefighter Kathy Rogers then filed a lawsuit in October alleging sexual harassment and discriminatory behavior. They have been on paid administrative leave for more than a year and a half.

Trafford appealed his second demotion in December and was scheduled to meet with the state arbitration panel on Monday. The meeting was canceled. Instead, City Administrator Jerre Bryant and the city’s attorney, Patricia Dunn, met with Trafford, Reben and Walsh on Tuesday and resolved the issue.

On March 15, the arbitration panel overturned the firing of Matthew Lamontagne, a firefighter who lost his job in December as a result of an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment in the fire department.

The board ruled that the city’s decision to fire Lamontagne was unfair because it had agreed to limit his discipline for alleged sexual harassment as a result of a previous investigation.

It also ruled that the incident for which Lamontagne was fired did not constitute harassment.

The board voted unanimously to reinstate Lamontagne. He will return to work this month and will receive back pay, seniority and benefits.

 

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

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