Marilyn Tourtelotte worked for the Department of Conservation as a park manager for more than 15 years. She had also been a game warden for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and served as co-chairman of the Land Use Regulation Commission.
She was named manager of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, a position in the Department of Conservation, in 1999. The position came with a requirement to live in the waterway, and Tourtelotte was assigned a year-round residence.
In a sworn statement Tourtelotte filed with the Maine Human Rights Commission, she said that on Jan. 31, 2006, Commissioner of Conservation Pat McGowan’s secretary emailed her “inquiring how she could reserve my assigned residence of use by the Commissioner and his guests.” Tourtelotte’s supervisor said that wasn’t allowed because the residence was her home.
Tourtelotte’s statement describes how, in a subsequent phone call, McGowan’s secretary repeated McGowan’s demand that he be allowed to use Tourtelotte’s residence. When she refused, the secretary said, “He wants you to move out.”
That same day, Tourtelotte wrote, “the Commissioner telephoned my supervisor, (name redacted), and told him that I should be ‘cooking for them’ and showing ‘north woods hospitality’ by allowing his party to use my residence.” McGowan also called her supervisor later that day, and both Tourtelotte and her supervisor talked with him.
“When I mentioned that he and his party could not use my residence, he said ‘we’ll see about that,'” Tourtelotte wrote.
Tourtelotte wrote that her supervisor later told her “the Commissioner had a ‘target on my back’ and that word came down from the top that he was told to do whatever was necessary to get rid of me. “
Subsequently, the department began an investigation into Tourtelotte based on an “outside complaint.” That investigation, covering a seven-year period, ended with a two-week suspension, which she served.
Tourtelotte then filed a complaint with the Commission in July, 2007, alleging sex discrimination and whistleblower retaliation.
“I believe my suspension ... occurred as a result of unlawful sex discrimination because I am a woman, because I am the only female Park Manager with assigned housing and because I would not give up my residence so that it could be used by the Commissioner and his friends. No male Park Manager has ever been asked to give up his residence for such a purpose.”
McGowan, in an interview, said Tourtelotte “was never asked to move out and make accommodations for me.”
“We were doing a film on the 40th anniversary of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, and I asked if the film crew could stay in the cabin near the Churchill residence. It was not her residence; it’s an outbuilding,” McGowan said. “It’s not an issue, her statement was so ridiculous.”
McGowan claimed that Tourtelotte recanted her statements about being asked to move out and cook for him and his friends.
“No, I did not take them back,” Tourtelotte said in a recent interview.
McGowan said that the investigation of Tourtelotte was justified by facts, not retaliation:
“Her personnel actions were brought about by complaints by people who were under her supervision,” McGowan said. “There were some very serious violations alleged by her employees.”
“The investigation was thrown out,” said Tourtelotte, who added that any record of it was “supposed to be destroyed.”
“There is potential for a lawsuit if anybody talks about that investigation,” Tourtelotte said. “I proved that what was in it was false information.”
The department settledwith Tourtelotte in July 2008 for $30,000 and provided her a comparably paid job in the Land Use Regulation Commission. The settlement, signed by McGowan, features a non-disclosure clause and includes the following phrase:
“It is further understood and agreed that this settlement is a compromise of disputed claims and that this Release and Settlement Agreement is not to be construed as an admission of any kind by any party or an admission of liability on the part of the Releasees, by whom liability is expressly denied.”
McGowan announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for governor in January 2010.