Fryeburg manager appeals firing; former Paris manager chosen as interim

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FRYEBURG — With the former town manager of Fryeburg appealing the termination of his contract earlier this month, the town’s selectmen voted to temporarily hire a former Paris town manager who was also fired last year.

Selectmen voted unanimously on Thursday to hire Sharon Jackson as an interim town manager following the 2-1 decision on March 1 to end former town manager Martin Krauter’s employment contract with cause. Selectman Thomas Klinepeter said Jackson was one of four candidates to apply for the interim position. Krauter, whose contract was set to run through June, recently appealed the decision to the Oxford County Superior Court.

Jackson also has an appeal pending in the Superior Court, following the 3-2 decision by the Paris selectmen last July to terminate her contract without cause. She said Tuesday that she has been hired on an interim basis for three months, and will not participate in any matters related to Krauter’s appeal. She said the new position will not affect her own appeal.

“It feels good to be doing what I enjoy doing,” she said.

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According to the Bridgton News, Fryeburg selectmen sent Krauter a letter following their decision notifying him of his “immediate dismissal from employment with the town.” The letter stated that selectmen felt Krauter had breached several sections of his contract, including areas related to compensatory time, vacation and sick leave.

Krauter is represented by his son, Benjamin Krauter. Benjamin charges in a complaint filed with the court that selectmen violated state statute in their decision. He says the person taking minutes was not present when the selectmen returned from their two-and-a-half-hour executive session related to the decision, and that Krauter, who did not attend the session, was unaware that it was taking place and would have requested that it be held in public if he had known about it.

Benjamin said the town did not provide specific examples of wrongdoing in its decision, and so the appeal is currently targeting the process of Krauter’s termination. Benjamin says the letter describes Krauter’s termination as immediate, but that under state statute, the board should have first voted on a preliminary resolution and suspended Krauter with pay. He said the resolution must give the reason for the termination and be filed with the town clerk, and that Krauter could request a hearing to appeal the decision.

Benjamin said the selectmen have scheduled a public appeal on Krauter’s termination for April 22. Krauter has been placed on paid leave, according to Benjamin and Klinepeter.

The court appeal names the town of Fryeburg and all three selectmen as defendants. It asks the court to declare the board’s decision illegal, restore Krauter to his job, award attorney’s fees and punitive damages, and sanction the selectmen.

Benjamin also requested that the court stay the deadline to respond to the selectmen’s vote. Town attorney Peter Malia Jr. replied that the town had followed the statutory procedure, including scheduling an appeal, and that staying the deadline would be contrary to the procedure.

“In fact, if anything is stayed it should be this lawsuit, which was filed prematurely, before the statutory process had played itself out,” Malia said.

Justice Robert Clifford denied Benjamin’s motion.

Jackson’s appeal charges that one selectman was starting his term early when he voted in favor of ending her contract with Paris, which had recently been renewed to run through 2014. It also charges that the three selectmen who voted in favor of the termination held clandestine meetings in violation of the Maine Freedom of Access Act in order to make the decision.

The town’s attorney has denied the charges and said the selectmen were not obligated to follow the statutory procedure, as Jackson’s contract allowed her to be terminated without cause.

mlangeveld@sunjournal.com

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