Judge rules in former New Gloucester worker’s lawsuit

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PORTLAND — A judge ruled in a split decision to allow a civil complaint filed by a former New Gloucester deputy treasurer and bookkeeper over damages related to those positions to continue.

Cumberland County Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills ruled against the town’s efforts to have Sandra Sacco’s lawsuit thrown out.

Sacco resigned from her town job in November about three weeks after selectmen met behind closed doors then, in public session, cut her hours and axed her benefits.

She had held the dual roles for a decade.

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When the town later reversed its decision and restored the job as a full-time position, Sacco was told that her application to return to her old job was filed too late.

Sacco filed suit through her attorney, James Clifford of Kennebunk, appealing the loss of her job and claiming violations of her civil and due process rights, along with damages for back pay, reinstatement of benefits and attorney’s fees.

Mills ruled that Sacco could move forward with efforts to fight her job loss. But Mills dismissed several claims in Sacco’s suit, including fraud and negligent misrepresentation.

Sacco’s claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress was allowed to continue.

Town selectmen met in executive session on Nov. 4, 2013, thenm in public session, voted 3-2 to reduce Sacco’s full-time job to 24 per week and to rescind her benefits. Sacco wasn’t told about the meeting until the next day.

At that meeting, selectmen decided to create an interim finance director position that would take over some of the duties Sacco had performed. Selectmen had planned to appoint Town Manager Sumner Field, who was due to retire on Jan. 2, 2014, to the newly created position, according to Mills.

“On hearing the news, plaintiff became upset and distressed about her finances, health care coverage and retirement expectations,” Mills wrote, citing Sacco’s amended complaint.

Sacco became “increasingly anxious” and sought medical advice. She took medical leave from Nov. 11 to Nov. 24. When she returned to work, Field presented her with a memo stating she was “on probation” for poor performance. Sacco believed she had been suspended without pay and left work. Later that day, she sent Field an email to say she had resigned.

On Dec. 2, selectmen unanimously decided to reverse their Nov. 4 decision regarding the bookkeeper job. But Sacco wasn’t told about the reversal and the restoration of her full-time position. The town advertised the job opening on its website.

On Dec. 26, 2013, selectmen met to discuss the town’s budget, including a possible severance package for Sacco. She attended that meeting and asked that she be reinstated to her former position. She was told that only the town manager could do that. She wrote to Field on that day and emailed him on Jan. 2, repeating her desire and seeking a written response.

On Jan. 6, the town manager responded in writing, telling her that her application was received after the deadline and wouldn’t be considered. A week later, Clifford, Sacco’s attorney, sent the town manager a letter asking for clarification about his decision not to rehire Sacco. A week after that, the town’s attorney told Clifford that “there was no further right of municipal review of the town manager’s decision not to consider (Sacco) for reinstatement or rehire and extended to (Sacco) an offer of settlement,” according to the amended complaint.

cwilliams@sunjournal.com

Editor’s note: this story has been updated

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