York County has fired its emergency management director for allegedly failing to disclose his romantic relationship with a subordinate employee when he was a supervisor at the York County Jail. He later married the employee.
The York County commissioners voted unanimously Friday at a special meeting to fire Leo C. Rogers, who oversaw operations at the jail while involved in the relationship, effective July 11. Rogers’ dismissal was confirmed in an email sent Monday to the Portland Press Herald by County Manager Gregory T. Zinser. Zinser also provided the newspaper a copy of Rogers’ termination letter, a three-page document dated July 11 that explains in detail why Rogers was fired. The letter is signed by Sallie Chandler, chairwoman of the York County commissioners.
Attempts to reach Rogers were unsuccessful Monday night, but his attorney, James Clifford, said his client plans to file a discrimination charge with the Maine Human Rights Commission. Rogers could also appeal the commissioners’ decision to Superior Court – which he would have to do within 30 days of his termination July 11.
“The basis of the (human rights commission) charge will be that York County, through Mr. Zinser, unlawfully retaliated against Mr. Rogers and interfered with his rights” when he helped his wife with her discrimination claims against the York County Jail, Clifford said in an email. He provided no details about her discrimination complaint.
Clifford said the wife’s discrimination claims were resolved in March, but he did not elaborate. Rogers’ wife is not being identified by either party, but the termination notice says that Rogers and his wife separated in December 2011 – just two months after they were married – but have not divorced.
“There are many assertions in the notice of termination which are inaccurate, misleading, or false and therefore we take issue with them,” Clifford said.
Daniel Cabral, a county commissioner, said the notice of termination letter was drafted by the county’s attorney, Timothy O’Brien, whose office is based in Kennebunk.
“It’s too bad that things happened the way they did,” Cabral said.
The termination letter says that by statute the dismissal of a county employee must be for “just, reasonable, appropriate and substantial reason that relates to or affects the ability, performance of duties, authority or actions of the employee or the public’s rights or interests.”
According to the documents provided by Zinser, Rogers began working for the York County Sheriff’s Office as a correctional officer in 2002. He was promoted to captain at the York County Jail on July 2, 2007, and was hired as emergency management director on April 8, 2013.
As captain, he was responsible for jail operations from July 2007 through December 2011. He was also appointed assistant jail superintendent.
The termination notice says Rogers and the employee began their relationship in August 2011 and married in October 2011 while he was in charge of jail operations. Rogers failed to disclose the relationship to the jail administrator, the sheriff, the county manager or county commissioners, the termination notice says.
The notice goes on to say that jail employees filed grievances and complaints between 2010 and 2013 alleging that the relationship between Rogers and the employee fostered “favoritism by (Rogers) toward her.”
In March 2013, Rogers applied for the position of emergency management director. The notice says that based on the employees’ complaints, Zinsel asked Rogers during the job interview whether he had a relationship with a jail employee and Rogers “adamantly denied such a relationship.”
Zinsel told Rogers during the interview that “even a consensual relationship between a senior manager … and a subordinated employee … can lead to a sexual harassment complaint if the relationship ends and the subordinate claims the supervisor was making unwanted advances,” the termination notice says.
On his job application, the county alleges, Rogers wrote “N/A” (not applicable) in response to a question about his spouse’s name. Commissioners described his answer as “misleading.”
The commissioners said that Rogers finally told Zinsel in February 2014 – almost a year after he was hired as emergency management director – about the relationship. Commissioners said Zinsel would not have hired Rogers if he had told him about the relationship earlier.
“We accept and agree with the county manager’s conclusion that your responses adversely impact your ability and fitness to perform the requirements of your position to such an extent that you should be separated from employment,” commissioners said in the termination letter. “Given your responses, we conclude as the county manager did that the county can no longer have the same level of trust and confidence in you.”