Rangeley and city worker reach settlement agreement in $ 90,000 lawsuit over hostile work environment allegations
RANGELEY – The city has settled a lawsuit with its former airport manager and current CFO for $ 90,000.
The settlement is covered by the Maine Municipal Association Property and Casualty Pool, the town’s insurance company. The May 25 agreement is a full and final compromise of “contested claims and not an admission by Rangeley of liability, wrongdoing or unlawful conduct.”
Rangeley’s Rebekah Carmichael-Austin, who was a tax collector and treasurer in her role as chief financial officer, filed a complaint about an alleged hostile work environment and a violation of state whistleblower protection law at summer 2019. As a result of the settlement, both parties dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice without court costs or legal costs.
She was also the manager of the airport at the time.
The city, through its lawyers, denied the allegations nearly two years ago.
The Maine Commission on Human Rights issued Carmichael-Austin a right to sue letter relating to the Maine Whistleblower Protection Act. She had reported numerous violations of law, rules and policy by Selectman Cynthia Egan, according to the lawsuit filed in Franklin County Superior Court. The lawsuit claimed Carmichael-Austin’s job had been threatened on several occasions and was treated less favorably than other city employees, according to the court document. She also alleged harassment and that Egan attempted to have her fired and disciplined, and held illegal executive sessions without Carmichael-Austin.
The city hired Seven Tree Solutions to investigate Carmichael’s complaints in 2018 and concluded that they were “merited” and that Egan had violated the city’s code of ethics by treating Carmichael and becoming involved in criminal matters. administrative functions.
Carmichael has been married since the lawsuit was filed in Franklin County Superior Court.
According to the settlement agreement, the parties wished to “settle and release fully and definitively all claims and causes of action of any kind that Carmichael-Austin has against Rangeley.”
The agreement provides for a check to be made payable to Carmichael-Austin for $ 20,000. According to the document, one or more payments of $ 70,000 are to be made to Skelton Taintor & Abbott in Lewiston.
The Sun Journal filed a Maine Freedom Information Act request with Rangeley for a copy of the settlement agreement.
“This was resolved by agreement and handled by the Maine Municipal Association’s property and accident pool,” Rangeley city manager Joe Roach said Thursday.
Carmichael-Austin attorney Amy Dieterich wrote in an email that she was not permitted to comment if the matter had been settled.
Judge Robert Mullen previously denied the city’s request for summary judgment on the case, according to the record. The case was heading towards trial but was not scheduled until the agreement was reached by the parties.
Dieterich commented on the summary judgment.
“We were extremely pleased – but not surprised – that Chief Justice Mullen admitted that what Ms. Carmichael-Austin endured was reprehensible and reprehensible conduct on the part of the Town of Rangeley. The city’s obvious denial of this fact has needlessly wasted a lot of public money over the course of several years. I hope the city will reflect on Chief Justice Mullen’s decision and recognize it as an opportunity to improve the work environment for all of the city’s dedicated employees like Ms. Carmichael-Austin, ”Dieterich wrote in an email. .
Town attorney Eric Uhl of Richardson, Whitman, Large & Badger of Portland was unavailable for comment.
The city entered into a settlement agreement with a former employee, the late Everett Quimby in 2012, who was fired in 2008. The settlement agreement was for $ 175,000. Voters approved the city using $ 145,000 of its undesignated fund for its part of the settlement. Former general manager Perry Ellsworth was to pay $ 30,000.
Quimby, who had worked for the city for 14 years before being fired, filed a complaint claiming he was fired without due process, in violation of city policy and in violation of the Maine Whistleblowers’ Protection Act and the Maine Human Rights Act.
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