A former North Yarmouth deputy fire chief who was abruptly dismissed in December has taken the first step toward suing the town over his firing, according to documents filed in Cumberland County Unified Court on Tuesday.

A town official, however, said Bill Young was given an opportunity to return to the department if he accepted certain conditions, and rejected the offer.

Young is seeking $400,000 in damages. He has filed notice that he intends to sue, but has not filed the lawsuit. State law requires that a municipality being sued enter into a 180-day negotiation period before a lawsuit such as Young’s can be filed.

The dispute between Young and town officials began in October, when a selectman complained about a fire department member – not Young – washing his car at the town’s fire station. When the practice was temporarily banned, Young complained to selectmen and the town in an email message, writing that it hurt morale in a department where firefighters and EMTs are voluntary employees, who are not required to respond to every call and are paid hourly only for their time on calls.

For writing that letter and circumventing his direct boss, Fire Chief Gregory Payson, Young was issued a written warning, and ordered to write an apology to Payson and Town Manager Rosemary Roy.

At a meeting between Young, Roy and Payson on Dec. 11, Roy fired Young.

In his court filing, Young alleges he was fired for refusing to sign his written warning. Roy, however, said she fired Young for being verbally abusive and disrespectful of her and Payson during the meeting.

“He was dismissed because of his demeanor that day,” Roy said.

On Jan. 22, Young was reinstated because municipalities must follow a detailed process for terminating a public employee. Roy put Young on administrative leave pending further inquiry into his employment.

Young retained an attorney, and the town started the formal termination process, which included a hearing March 4 at which Young apologized to his former superiors.

Roy then offered to allow Young to return to the department on the condition that he forfeit his rank of deputy chief and serve 60 days of employment probation, during which he would be required to respond to at least 40 percent of rescue calls, 20 percent of fire calls and half of all training sessions and department-wide meetings.

“Your conduct on Dec. 11 was and is not acceptable from an officer and a leader in the department,” Roy wrote in a March 24 letter to Young that she provided to the Press Herald, outlining the conditions of his return. “While we admire your skills, dedication and background, much more is required from someone who is assigned to a department leadership position.”

Young’s attorney, John Richardson, called the conditions “fundamentally unfair, punitive, unduly burdensome, unattainable and retaliatory,” according to the court filing.

North Yarmouth is insured against such lawsuits by the Maine Municipal Association. An attorney for the association, Peter Tanous, will represent the town in the case, Roy said.


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