County seeks dismissal of fired worker’s lawsuit

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AUBURN — Former jail worker Patrick Gorham was back at the Androscoggin County Courthouse on Tuesday, this time in the courtroom, hoping to get his job back.

Gorham sued Androscoggin County and Sheriff Guy Desjardins after the Androscoggin County Commission fired him in connection with two on-duty incidents last year involving the duct-taping of a corrections worker and the choking of another worker.

Gorham filed a civil complaint in December claiming he was fired wrongfully under state law. He also said his rights to due process under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution were violated and resulted in professional and personal injuries.

A lawyer for the county argued at a hearing Tuesday that the court should dismiss the complaint because Gorham didn’t invoke the proper legal mechanism to redress his firing and, more important, filed his complaint too late.

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James Belleau said Gorham failed to file the proper challenge under the Maine Rule of Civil Procedure, through which the court reviews the action of a governmental body. For that reason, Belleau said Androscoggin County Superior Court had no jurisdiction to hear Gorham’s complaint. Even if Gorham had filed such a challenge, the court should drop it because the rule requires that the complaint be filed within 30 days of notice of the commission’s action.

The commission voted on Nov. 4 at a meeting attended by Gorham. The clock started ticking at that time, Belleau said. Gorham filed his complaint on Dec. 18.

In his complaint, Gorham said he had an excellent work record and had received a recent promotion to the rank of corporal. His complaint says he was fired because of “two incidents of horseplay in the workplace.”

At about 11:30 p.m. on Sept. 22, several corrections officers, including Gorham, bound a co-worker to a chair at the jail using duct tape. He was wheeled into a prisoner transport elevator and moved to a different floor before he was returned to his work area where he eventually freed himself. The instigator of that prank was a sergeant who later resigned, Gorham wrote in his complaint.

On Aug. 31, Gorham put a corrections officer in a chokehold. Shortly afterward, that worker lay his head on his desk repeatedly and reported he was disoriented and nauseous. That worker consented to Gorham’s actions.

Both incidents were captured on surveillance cameras at the jail and shown to county commissioners.

Sheriff Desjardins recommended firing Gorham over his actions. Commissioners voted 2-1 for termination.

Gorham’s attorney, Shawn Sullivan, said Tuesday his client’s lawsuit did include a request for a Maine Rule of Civil Procedure review but was found on a summary sheet. He asked that the complaint be amended to reflect that request on the complaint.

As for the timing of the complaint, Sullivan said his client had been waiting for a written decision of the commissioners’ actions before filing.

Justice Thomas Delahanty II said he would review the case law relevant to the complaint and issue an order at a later time.

cwilliams@sunjournal.com

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