BUCKFIELD — An attorney representing former Zadoc Long Free Library Director Bonnie Santos claims Town Manager Cindy Dunn fired Santos because she was scheduled to take medical leave, which Dunn said is “absolutely not true.”

Santos, of West Minot, was terminated Jan. 21 but the reason has not been made public.

One of her attorneys, David Webbert, said in an email that his legal team has reviewed the town’s Personnel Policies & Procedures Handbook “and we continue to strongly believe that the termination was illegal.”

Their position is it violated the town’s Personnel Policy, the Maine Human Rights Act, including the right to medical leave, the Maine Whistleblowers’ Protection Act, the Maine Family Medical Leave Requirements law and the federal constitutional right to due process.

The town manger failed to provide this basic, mandatory feedback for Bonnie (or any warnings or discipline) before abruptly firing within a few weeks after Bonnie requested medical leave for necessary heart surgery,” Webbert said. “The Maine Human Rights Act (and common human decency) prohibits a town manger from firing a longtime employee because she needs to take medical leave for a serious heart condition.”

Dunn said, Her medical issues have nothing to do with it. My decision was solely based on her performance.”

The town’s Personnel Policy has a number of steps for disciplining an employee, including counseling and verbal warning, written warning, suspension and final written warning and termination. While the policy states the town will try to exercise these steps in order, it can combine and skip steps, depending on each situation.

Furthermore employees may be terminated without prior notice or disciplinary action,” the policy reads.

In early February, Webbert requested an extension for Santos to contest her termination.

Dunn initially did not give Santos a chance to respond to her four-page termination letter, but after consulting with the town’s attorney, John “Jack” Conway, Dunn gave Santos five business days to do so.

Webbert said his client will file a written response to Dunn regarding her termination decision this week.

While Dunn never formally approved an extension, she said she would accept Santos’ response.

Webbert noted the town’s Personnel Policy requires the town manager to conduct an annual evaluation and goal-setting session for the library director, as required for a number of other town employees.

After Bonnie was promoted in 2014 to (the library director) position, the town manager never complied with this requirement to perform an annual evaluation but instead neglected her own job duties,” Webbert said.

Dunn said while she does not have a written evaluation for Santos, she does “have documentation relative to those meetings” where Santos’ performance was discussed.

In her particular case, as I do with all the employees actually, I address the situation when it comes about,” Dunn said. “I don’t wait until the annual evaluation. … I address things as they come up.”

Assistant Library Director Katie Clukey is interim library director and is on a probationary period for library director.

In addition to Santos filing her response to her termination, Webbert will reach out to the Maine Municipal Association, the town’s insurer, “about reaching a fair resolution.”

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