Mechanic Falls officer’s firing overturned

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MECHANIC FALLS — The Town Council voted 3-2 Monday night to overturn Town Manager John Hawley’s decision to authorize the firing of police Officer Jim Daigle last month.

Daigle, who is in his 20s, was fired by police Chief Jeff Goss on Sept. 15 after Daigle’s fourth accident with a police cruiser in less than two years.

Daigle chose to have his appeal to the Town Council conducted before the public Monday night.

Daigle did not dispute Hawley’s finding that he had been at fault in three of the accidents, nor did he deny the charge that the accidents were the result of distracted driving.

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He listed his accomplishments with the department, which, with the exception of his driving record, were a benefit to the town, he said.

He also said he was willing to be on probation, take further driver training, take a pay cut to offset any insurance premium increase the town might experience as result of his accidents, anything to get his job back.

“Being a police officer is my life, who I am and who I’ve become,” he said, “All I can do is throw myself on the mercy of the council.”

Hawley listed the timetable of events that led to Daigle’s dismissal:

* Nov. 5, 2012, Daigle was hired

* Dec. 12, 2012, Daigle’s cruiser struck a lamppost base at the entrance to Oxford Casino on Route 26 in Oxford.

* Aug. 9, 2013, Daigle drove off a steep embankment at the former Marcel Mill property at 32 Lewiston St. Hawley ruled that this accident had extenuating circumstances and considered a verbal warning sufficient.

* April 2, 2014, Daigle’s cruiser struck the side of the bridge on Poland Corner Road.

* Sept. 10, 2014, Daigle’s cruiser struck a utility pole at Lewiston Street and Androscoggin Avenue.

Cruiser damage from the accidents topped $7,500, but there were no injuries.

Daigle had been interviewed after each accident and progressively advised of the consequences of his driving record.

Hawley said that while town policy dictated that the consequence ought to be dismissal, and that he is duty bound by his position of town manager to so act, the human in him hoped the council might act otherwise.

Questioned by council members, Daigle admitted four or five accidents while driving his own vehicle as well as “a few” accidents when he was on duty as an Auburn policeman, prior to being hired in Mechanic Falls.

Asked why he had left employment in Auburn, Daigle said he resigned after he was charged with a deer hunting violation. He said he was hunting with a relative, who had an any deer permit, and he, Daigle, shot a doe, which his relative tagged.

Council members were concerned they might be found personally liable should should Daigle become involved a horrific accident in the future.

Town attorney Jack Conway said that was a possibility, entirely dependent on circumstances and how they might be viewed by a judge or jury.

Councilor Nancy Richard voted to uphold Hawley’s decision, saying she was most concerned at the precedent this set.

Councilor Stephen Bolduc said he could not condone such a very poor driving record.

Councilors Lou Annance, Cathy Fifield and Wayne Hackett believed Daigle should be given another chance.

“I’m pulled in two directions. His driving record (is poor) but he’s a good officer who cares about this community,” Fifield said.

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