NORWAY – Deborah Wyman, charged with embezzling money from Norway, has taken a job with a property management agency owned by former police Chief Cathleen Manchester, who ended her tenure here with lawsuits and lingering bitterness.
Wyman, 51, of 25 Main St. in Harrison, has pleaded not guilty to stealing thousands of dollars when she worked as community development director and administered grants meant to boost growth in this area. She was with the town for 20 years.
A couple of weeks ago, Manchester, who runs Manchester Property Management in Gray, offered Wyman a job overseeing rentals, Manchester confirmed Tuesday. This is a separate organization from the real estate team Manchester manages for Keller Williams Realty.
“I have known Debbie Wyman for about 15 years. I trust that she can very effectively run my rental management for Manchester Property Management,” Manchester said. “She’s intelligent, she’s capable and I trust her. I feel she’s been unjustly prosecuted without just cause, and that everyone’s innocent until proven guilty.”
Manchester was police chief in Norway from 1991 to 1995. She took an unpaid medical leave in 1994.
In 1995, she sued the town for $240,000 alleging selectmen and Town Manager David Holt improperly disclosed medical information about her. The next month she filed a $250,000 lawsuit claiming damage to her reputation, loss of her job and income and emotional distress from not being allowed to return to work after back surgery.
Later in 1995, she filed a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission alleging discrimination by the town based on sex and disability and sexual harassment by fire Chief Bob Butters, who had since died.
Although Manchester continued to lay claim to her position, selectmen voted in 1995 not to renew her contract.
In 1997, Manchester agreed to a $243,000 payment to settle the two lawsuits, $5,000 for her retirement account and her department-issued Glock semi-automatic pistol. In return she resigned as police chief and dropped the complaint before the Maine Human Rights Commission.
Her attorney at the time said she decided not to pursue her job, mostly because she knew returning would be difficult and she was then employed with as a real estate agent.
For its part in the settlement agreement, the town denied all allegations of wrongdoing.
On Tuesday, Manchester criticized the way Norway handled her case and Wyman’s case.
“I can tell you from my experience in Norway, they are quick to judge, they are shortsighted at times, and they are very willing to take people out at their knees. And I’ll do everything to support Deb at this time.”
Asked if that was how she perceived she was treated by town officials when she worked here, Manchester answered, “Absolutely.”
Meanwhile, Holt said he had taken disciplinary action against Wyman, and following legal protocol, had offered her 30 days to file an appeal. That period ends Sunday, May 7, he said.
“I tell the person there’s an issue, we offer the person to come in and explain their side of the story,” Holt said Tuesday. “If they don’t do that, you make a decision, and then they have 30 days to appeal a decision. This is just the way the law is – some people might feel it is very fair, too slow or indirect. It’s certainly not Donald Trump saying, You’re fired.'”
He added he would not comment about what action was taken until the time is up, or say whether Wyman had made an appeal.
Manchester said Tuesday that Wyman is handling the stress of the criminal and civil lawsuits by the town and close media attention well. “Debbie is doing wonderfully. She’s got a great support group around her, and we’re very pleased to have her with us.”