AUGUSTA — Gov. John Baldacci said Tuesday he has directed his chief legal counsel to investigate a longtime member of the state Workers’ Compensation Board who pleaded guilty to an assault charge in 12th District Court in Farmington last week.
The case stems from a bar fight last October at a conference where Anthony Monfiletto, 54, of Portland, was representing the state. According to Carrabassett Valley police, Monfiletto attacked Scott Spencer, 43, at the Widowmaker Lounge at Sugarloaf Mountain Resort on the second night of a three-day summit on workers’ compensation.
It was the second assault case against Monfiletto in his 14 years on the board, on which he represents organized labor. He was convicted and fined $500 for assault in a West Bath court in 1998, a year after he was appointed to the board.
Under the Workers’ Compensation Act, the governor’s office has the power to remove board members for “willful neglect of duty or malfeasance in office.” Such action would have to be approved by the Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Labor.
Gov. John Baldacci “has asked his chief legal counsel to investigate the circumstances of the incident in October and the plea agreement to determine what action, if any, is appropriate,” said David Farmer, the governor’s deputy chief of staff.
The Workers’ Compensation Board administers and resolves disputes between employers and victims of workplace injuries. In 2009, the board and its staff handled nearly 8,000 disputed claims for workers’ compensation, according to the most recent annual report.
After pleading guilty at a hearing in Farmington last Thursday, Monfiletto was placed on deferred disposition — essentially a form of probation — as part of an agreement with the District Attorney’s Office. If Monfiletto does not engage in any criminal conduct in the next year, and if he has no contact with Spencer, the case will be dismissed. Breaking those rules would result in automatic, retroactive conviction.
The day after the hearing — last Friday — the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting began asking the governor’s office and the executive director of the Workers’ Compensation Board about Monfiletto. The statement from the governor’s office about the investigation was given to the center on Tuesday afternoon.
Knocked victim off bar stool
At Sugarloaf, Monfiletto was attending the state’s annual Comp Summit, a privately organized, educational conference for those in the field.
The day before the assault, Monfiletto had an argument with Spencer in a Sugarloaf parking lot, according to the police report. Monfiletto told police that Spencer “threatened to kill him if they were to have a fight.”
The following evening at the bar, Spencer was “drunk” and “harassing women,” said Paul Fortier, deputy director for information management at the board and the witness in the Carrabassett Valley police report.
“(Spencer) should have been out of there long before,” Fortier said. “All I know is that this guy was a serious problem.”
According to the police report, Monfiletto — who is just shy of 6 feet tall and heavy-set — approached Spencer and asked him if he was the same person from the parking lot the day before. When Spencer said he was, Monfiletto punched him in the face, knocking him off his stool.
Fortier said Spencer was also a large man and that Monfiletto doesn’t drink.
In the police report, Officer Thomas Cummings stated that Monfiletto’s assault caused a “severe contusion” under Spencer’s right eye and a “laceration” above his lip.
Spencer could not be located for comment.
Monfiletto was interviewed on Tuesday just after he attended the monthly Workers’ Compensation Board meeting. He replied, “No comment,” when asked about the two assaults and then declined to reply at all to other questions.
Possible conflict versus duty
James McGowan, an executive director of the board in the 1990s, said the two assault cases could present problems for Monfiletto.
“Comp is often about subtle conflicts or possible conflicts,” McGowan said. “Whether this would be one or not, in a particular case or another, I can’t really speak to, but it is … always something you want to be aware of. I can’t think of anything specific, but it certainly wouldn’t surprise me where there would be situations when it would be a conflict, as far as performing duty.”
Paul Dionne, the current executive director of the board, said Monfiletto and fellow board members are called on infrequently to resolve cases at their level. Most are settled at lower levels in the agency.
Dionne was asked what Monfiletto ought to do in the event an individual case comes to the board, for example, one involving a workplace assault.
“That’s a judgment he’ll have to make at the time,” Dionne said.
The board has seven members, three representing labor, three representing management and an executive director. The governor is given four names from organized labor from which to choose the labor members.
Monfiletto, a Bath Iron Works employee, was first appointed in 1997 by Gov. Angus King. Baldacci reappointed Monfiletto to a fourth four-year term in March 2009. Farmer said the 1998 assault case was considered at the time.
The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting is a nonpartisan, nonprofit journalism organization based in Hallowell. The e-mail is email@example.com. The Web site is pinetreewatchdog.org. Center publisher John Christie contributed to this story.