PARIS — The Board of Selectmen has unanimously voted to settle a lawsuit filed against the town by a former town manager, though the proposal must also pass a special town meeting vote later this month for final approval.

The settlement would pay Sharon Jackson, who served as town manager between 2004 and 2009, a sum of $32,502.76 in exchange for her releasing all claims filed against the town. Selectmen voted 4-0 in favor of the settlement, with selectman Lloyd “Skip” Herrick absent. Voters will decide whether to finalize the settlement at a special town meeting on July 26.

Town Manager Phil Tarr said the funds will come out of the town’s undesignated surplus if approved.

“It’s not going to put a financial strain on the town to pay this,” he said.

The selectmen’s vote occurred on June 24, just over one year after Jackson’s employment contract with the town was terminated. The settlement decision came after a seven-hour executive mediation session at the offices of Norman, Hanson, and Detory in Lewiston.

Selectman Ted Kurtz said the figure represents Jackson’s lost income between the expiration of her severance payments and the date she was hired as town manager of Fryeburg. Several audience members at Monday’s selectmen’s meeting asked how much the process cost the town in legal costs and other expenses, and Tarr said he would have a figure at the next meeting on July 12.

Selectmen expressed their support for the settlement process at their regular Monday meeting, and also praised Jackson for her work in the town. Selectwoman Jean Smart thanked town attorney Geoffrey Hole for his work and said Jackson helped improve the town’s finances in her time as town manager.

“I would just like to publicly thank Sharon Jackson for her years of service to this town. In my opinion she was a superb manager,” she said. “In her lawsuit she never intended to soak this town for a lot of money, and I think the proof of that is the very, very modest amount of money she settled for.”

Chairman Raymond Glover said he and selectman Lloyd “Skip” Herrick opposed the vote to fire Jackson on June 22, 2009. He also said Jackson was an “excellent” town manager.

“If an apology were warranted to Sharon, I certainly would issue it,” he said. “We deeply regret what happened but we can’t go back and redo it.”

“I know this board’s focus was to come to an agreement that was fair and equitable and did not have to impact the town any more than what we ended up negotiating,” Herrick.

Kurtz, who previously criticized Hole’s representation and argued that he should have asked to have the suit dismissed, said Monday that his legal opinions on the matter did not represent any dissatisfaction with Jackson. He said her termination was a “tremendous loss” for the town.

“I sensed that the board really fully emotionally and intellectually came together, and we did what we felt was the right thing,” he said.

The 3-2 vote to terminate Jackson’s contract without cause came about five months after a board decision to extend her contract to 2014, with a salary raise from $60,216 to $64,116 scheduled for last July and another raise to $68,016 scheduled for this July. The decision to terminate without cause required the town to pay Jackson four months’ salary and benefits.

Jackson appealed the decision in the Oxford County Superior Court. She charged that selectman Troy Ripley, a newly elected official who voted in favor of termination, should not have been seated until July 1 due to a warrant article approved by the town in 1999. The suit accused Ripley, along with then-chairman David Ivey and selectman Glen Young, of having illegal clandestine meetings to make the decision to fire her prior to the meeting.

The suit also charged breach of contract, failure of timely payments, violation of the Maine Freedom of Access Act, violation of a state statute and constitutional rights, negligence and defamation. Hole’s written reply to the lawsuit stated that the selectmen were immune from acts committed in their legislative capacity, and argued that Jackson’s contract allowed removal without cause. Jackson’s attorney, Bryan Dench, questioned whether such a clause in the contract was a violation of state statute.

Jackson’s termination raised the ire of several residents, many of whom appeared at meetings to criticize the three selectmen who favored the vote. Ivey was recalled in a 651-69 vote in February, and Ripley resigned before the vote but was recalled in absentia in a 628-102 decision. Glover and Herrick survived recall votes with 578-115 and 600-112 tallies against recall, respectively. Young resigned in March for personal reasons.

Michael Thorne, a former town manager in Raymond and Harrison, was hired to replace Jackson in a part-time capacity in July. The board hired Tarr as a full-time replacement in December on a $57,000 salary.

Jackson formerly served as finance clerk of Oxford for eight years, and was hired as the Paris town manager in December of 2004. She began serving as interim town manager of Fryeburg in March following a decision by that town’s selectmen to suspend former Town Manager Martin Krauter with cause. Jackson was hired full-time on a $65,000 salary following the Fryeburg selectmen’s decision in May to confirm Krauter’s removal.

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