Mechanic Falls town councilors and town attorney John Conway, left, listen to a question from a resident at Monday night’s council meeting at Elm Street School. From left are Conway and Councilors Wayne Hackett, Chairwoman Cathy Fifield, John Emery, Nicholas Konstantoulakis and Keith Bennett. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

MECHANIC FALLS — More than 100 people got few answers from councilors Monday night about the town’s handling of Town Manager Zakk Maher’s firing last month.

Town attorney Jack Conway had no response when asked if officials followed the town charter.

Mechanic Falls town attorney John Conway, left, discusses a question posed by a resident at Monday night’s meeting at Elm Street School. Councilors Wayne Hackett, center, and chairwoman Cathy Fifield listen. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Maher of Poland was dismissed after a 4-1 vote by the council June 17, 10 months into his four-year contract.

Maher’s lawyer, Adam Lee, advised councilors two days later they did not file a written preliminary resolution with the town clerk stating the specific reasons for the proposed removal and did not deliver a copy of it to Maher within 10 days of the filing. Maher would have had 20 days to reply and request a public hearing, Lee said.

According to state law, if disciplinary action is taken against a public employee, a final written decision of that action is required, and it must state the conduct or other facts on which the disciplinary action is based and the conclusions of the acting authority as to the reasons for that action.

The Town Charter states that at least 30 days before removal becomes effective, the council shall, by a majority vote, adopt a preliminary resolution stating the reasons for the manager’s removal.

At their meeting June 25, more than a week after its vote to fire Maher and amid a standing-room-only crowd, councilors voted to send a preliminary resolution letter to Maher explaining their decision and declared he was on “administrative leave.” Councilor John Emery abstained from the vote.

Residents at that meeting asked to have the letter released to the public, but councilors refused saying Maher hadn’t seen it.

Mechanic Falls resident Sean Cleary waits for town officials to answer his question during Monday’s meeting at Elm Street School. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

At Monday night’s meeting at the Elm Street School gym, resident Tim Webster asked if the resolution letter could be made public. Conway said it is still an ongoing personnel matter and, therefore, confidential. He said the letter will not be made public until July 25, following the 30-day requirement in the town charter.

Resident Aaron Ouellette asked why the 30 days did not start June 17 when Maher was “relieved” from his position.

“Was it because you failed to provide him the actual letter” on the 17th?

“So you have the legal right, without telling them why, to remove somebody, then just dictating them the 30 days after that?” he asked.

Ouellette also asked if the council could clarify the difference between “relieved of” and “administrative leave.”

“So if the council misspoke and said  ‘relieved of’ that’s the council’s error, right?” Ouellette asked.

A large crowd begins to exit the gymnasium at Elm Street School after a special town meeting Monday night. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Conway told Ouellette to ask Maher’s attorney or his own.

The council released the typed minutes of its June 17 meeting Monday night. It shows that Councilor Wayne Hackett made the motion to “relieve” Maher of his position, with Nicholas Konstantoulakis seconding the motion. Hackett, Chairwoman Cathy Fifield, Konstantoulakis and Emery voted in favor. Keith Bennett opposed.

Officials are now changing the date of Maher’s firing because they admitted they used the wrong wording in their original motion.

The minutes also state that Police Chief Jeffrey Goss and Sgt. James Daigle were instructed to escort Maher from the Municipal Building and take his keys to town buildings. Maher said he would like to officially make a Freedom of Access Act request “for the video of this meeting.”

Planning Board Chairperson Paula Stotts asked if the June 17 vote was legal because Emery’s term officially started on July 1, while outgoing Councilman Steve Bolduc’s ended June 30. She said Bolduc should have voted instead of Emery.

Former School Committee and Budget Committee member Carlton Beckett said firing Maher was a “foolish action on the part of the council without reading the charter” and without following up with the Maine Municipal Association to determine how to proceed.

“These actions must stop,” Beckett said. “It is not helping our image in Mechanic Falls. . . . What are you going to do to protect us?

“I think it’s probably too late now,” he said. “The horse is gone from the barn and you are going to have a tough time getting it back in.”


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