MECHANIC FALLS — In a letter to the Town Council dated Wednesday, attorney Adam Lee requested a public hearing on behalf of his client, Zakk Maher, on recent action by the council to begin termination proceedings.

Maher is on paid administrative leave.

The council voted 4-1 on June 17 to terminate Maher. After that, and upon advice of the town’s attorney, Jack Conway, the council convened a special meeting June 25 to vote to send Maher a preliminary resolution letter, as required by the town charter and state law. At the time, councilors said the meeting was held to fix their wording in the motion to terminate Maher.

That letter, according to documents filed with the Androscoggin County Superior Court in Auburn last week, notes Maher’s “termination is due to lack of communication, follow-through and fit with the town.”

Maher received the letter June 27.

According to Lee’s request for a hearing, “This preliminary resolution is too vague to permit Mr. Maher sufficient notice to prepare a defense to the alleged reasons for his termination.”

Lee contends the councilors have not specified “dates, times, subject matter, nor any detail with respect to failed communication or failure to follow directives of the Council,” and that lack of detail does not provide Maher the process that he is due.

According to Lee, state law requires a preliminary resolution to state “the specific reasons for the proposed removal” in enough detail to “permit the individual to know how to conduct themselves.”

The attorney, in his letter, asserts “Mr. Maher denies that he failed to communicate with the Town Council or failed to comply with directives from the Town Council that were properly ordered within the parameters of the Town’s Charter and Ordinances.”

Lee’s formal request for a public hearing, required by law and by municipal charter, suggests that the council, “Please be aware that it is the Town’s obligation … to hold a hearing at least 10 days but not more than 30 days after the date of this request.”

On June 19, two days after the council voted to terminate Maher, Lee filed a Freedom of Access Act request with the town seeking all documents pertaining to Maher’s dismissal. While he had not yet received the documents when he sent the letter Wednesday, he does say in the communication that he has been informed that he should expect to receive the documents on Friday, July 19.

“It is essential that those documents are received and that the disclosure is complete well in advance of any hearing,” Lee wrote to the council.

Lee called the attempt to terminate Maher illegal and called the council “irredeemably biased.” He noted in the letter that because the council didn’t include any statutory basis in the preliminary resolution as required by law, “any hearing that happens with respect to the preliminary resolution” is “fundamentally unfair.”

The attorney has asked the council to let him know whether it intends to withdraw the preliminary resolution and reinstate Maher, withdraw the preliminary resolution and issue a new, more “sufficiently specific” resolution, or schedule a public hearing “on this insufficiently vague preliminary resolution.”

Last week, Lee filed a Freedom of Access Act appeal in Superior Court seeking access to records on Maher. That appeal has not yet been heard.

Earlier this week, a group of residents filed a petition with the town to recall the four councilors who voted to terminate Maher: Chairwoman Cathy Fifield, Vice Chairman Wayne Hackett and Councilors John Emery and Nicholas Konstantoulakis.

Councilor Kieth Bennett did not support the termination.

The citizen-initiated petition drive was spurred by the town’s refusal to offer more details behind Maher’s dismissal, and out of concern the council may have neglected state law and similar rules laid out in the town charter on the proper procedures for dismissing a town manager, according to supporters. The drive stalled when the town’s attorney advised town officials the signatures of the five residents who submitted the recall affidavit requesting the petition drive had to be notarized, which town officials had not done.

When the document is notarized, organizers intend to continue the recall drive.

According to the town’s charter, a successful recall petition must be signed by at least a number equal to 15% of the total number of qualified voters who cast votes in the most recent gubernatorial election. In the 2018 gubernatorial election, interim Town Clerk Julie Ward said 1,278 Mechanic Falls voters cast ballots, which means each recall petition for each of the four councilors must have at least 192 qualified signatures.

Organizers have 30 days to collect the necessary signatures.

Maher was in the 10th month of his four-year contract when he was relieved of the job. Lee said Maher wants to return to his position.

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