Forwarding a sexually explicit email was just one of the reasons that Albert Farris was fired a year ago from his job as Falmouth’s code enforcement officer, the town’s lawyer says in defending against a wrongful-termination lawsuit.

In a complaint filed Sept. 6 in Cumberland County Superior Court, Farris, 64, of Brunswick claims he was fired after eight years without just cause or due process. The lawsuit names Town Manager Nathan Poore and Community Development Director Amanda Stearns as co-defendants.

Farris’ complaint and Poore’s termination notice outline a lengthy firing process that began Feb. 8, 2010, when Poore first told Farris that he was being let go because of a “fiscal crisis.”

It ended Sept. 28, 2010, when Poore told Farris that he had been fired because he failed to satisfy a subsequent “work plan” to improve his performance.

“They were setting him up,” said Farris’ attorney, James Clifford of Portland. “He’s an older guy who knows what he’s doing and worked there before either of those people.”

The town deprived Farris of an impartial termination hearing when Poore acted as hearing officer, provided testimony supporting Farris’ termination, then issued a notice of his decision to fire Farris, Clifford said.

“He acted as judge, jury and executioner,” Clifford said. Poore also violated state law when he fired Farris without authorization from the Town Council, Clifford said.

According to Poore’s termination notice, Farris’ work was lacking in many areas: He failed to follow “reasonable instructions” from his supervisors, showed poor judgment and a “lack of willingness” to address his inadequacies, and violated performance standards outlined in the town’s personnel policies.

“The performance issues were the primary moving force behind the decision,” said Melissa Hewey, a lawyer with Drummond Woodsum in Portland who is representing the town.

In particular, Farris violated personnel policies on harassment and sexual harassment, and computer and Internet use, Hewey said. Poore dedicated several paragraphs in the nine-page termination notice to a “pornography” allegation.

Poore wrote that Farris “received and chose to save a sexually explicit email” that included a picture of a nude man with a tattoo covering his back, arms and buttocks.

The tattoo depicted a beautiful woman’s face, hair and breasts. The text with the picture said, “This guy had what he thought was the greatest tattoo … until he went to jail,” suggesting that the man might be raped because of his tattoo.

Farris received the email from a code enforcement officer in another town and forwarded it to another Falmouth employee, Hewey said.

Hewey acknowledged that the email didn’t constitute “pornography,” but said Farris violated personnel policies that prohibit receiving, sending or displaying sexually explicit or suggestive material in the workplace, including via computer.

In his termination notice, Poore wrote that Farris should have deleted the email and reported it to his supervisor. The town’s anti-harassment policy directs employees to report potentially offensive incidents and says that workers found to have engaged in harassment will be disciplined and may be fired.

Poore’s termination notice also said that Farris demonstrated poor organizational and communication skills; left thousands of work-related emails unanswered, including requests from Stearns, his supervisor; made questionable ordinance and code interpretations; and worked for the town of Harpswell while he was on medical leave from his job in Falmouth.

Farris’ attorney said Poore and Stearns regularly tried to interfere with Farris’ statutory duties, directed him to make unlawful code decisions and discriminated against him because of his age. An age discrimination case is pending before the Maine Human Rights Commission, Clifford said. Farris was replaced by his assistant, Justin Brown, who is younger.

Farris is seeking compensation in the court case for lost wages, damage to his reputation and emotional distress, among other things.

No court hearing date is pending. Hewey filed a notice Sept. 13 to move the lawsuit to U.S. District Court in Portland.

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at: [email protected]