MECHANIC FALLS — Town Manager Zakk Maher has filed a letter preserving his right to sue the town for $200,000 as a result of the council’s effort last June to fire him.

The “entity pursuant letter” sent to the town on Maher’s behalf by his attorney, Adam Lee, appeared on the town’s website Friday morning in the agenda for Monday night’s Town Council meeting.

Dated Dec. 9, 2019, the letter states Maher was “unlawfully removed from his position as manager for the town of Mechanic Falls in contravention of several statutes and unlawfully under the Freedom of Access Act.”

The letter’s statement of claim says, “In addition to these actions being unlawful under several statutory sections, they were also in discriminatory and in violation of the Whistleblower Protection Act. Moreover, subsequent to his (Maher’s) removal and eventual restoration of his position, several Selectboard members and employees have engaged in a pattern of defamatory statements and intentional undermining of Mr. Maher’s ability to do his job.”

The letter named seven town representatives and employees: Council Chairwoman Cathy Fifield, Vice Chairman Wayne Hackett, Councilors Nick Konstantoulakis and John Emery, Code Enforcement Officer Fred Collins, Planning Board member Lou Annance and Town Clerk Julie Ward.

“As a result of these actions,” the letter continues, “Mr. Maher has suffered back pay issues, emotional pain and suffering, harm to reputation, lost earning opportunities, humiliation, embarrassment and attorney’s fees.”

In an email Friday, Lee explained that “The Maine Tort Claims Act requires that any individual who has a cause of action against a municipality must file with that municipality a notice of claim within 180 days of the event giving rise to that claim. This letter was sent exclusively to the municipality.”

“This is not a lawsuit,” Lee stated. “It preserves my client’s right to file a lawsuit.”

Lee took issue with town officials posting the letter on the town’s website, writing, “It is inappropriate — though unfortunately unsurprising — that the Selectboard made this personnel and legal matter public in a misleading fashion. For Zakk to comment further would also be inappropriate.”

Dec. 9 was 175 days from June 17 when Fifield, Hackett, Konstantoulakis and Emery voted to oust Maher. Councilor Kieth Bennett voted against the dismissal.

Maher, who had completed 10 months of his four-year contract at the time, was reinstated in August after Lee filed suit in Androscoggin County Superior Court in Auburn claiming the council acted in violation of state statutes and the town charter.

The four town councilors survived a citizen-initiated recall election in September by eight votes. Hackett resigned in November with no reasons given.

Reached Friday afternoon, Fifield said it was on the advice of town attorney Jack Conway to post the letter publicly in the interests of transparency. Fifield had the letter inserted in the agenda on the website on Friday.

Mark Elliott, who headed the recall effort for the four town councilors last summer, said in a written statement Friday:

“Last June we had a very unfortunate situation where some of our elected officials on the council made some poor decisions. Those poor decisions resulted in laws being broken and the rights of a much-loved town employee, Zakk Maher, being violated. It is unfortunate that the expense behind the whole situation will have to be absorbed by the taxpayers, but, in my opinion, the amount Zakk Maher is asking for is menial for what he went through. Just wait until we get the bill from the town’s attorney. We, the people of Mechanic Falls, had the opportunity to recall the councilors responsible for these poor decisions. The end results of that recall were overwhelmingly in favor of recalling all four of them, however we failed to meet the minimum turnout threshold by only eight votes. If there is ever a moment that demonstrates how important it is that we take time to vote, this is it.”

Monday’s council meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Municipal Building on Lewiston Street.


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