WALDOBORO, Maine — Waldoboro’s longtime town clerk has filed suit against the town over a denied appeal of disciplinary proceedings brought against her by the town manager, according to court documents.
Attorneys for Town Clerk Linda Perry filed a complaint in Lincoln County Superior Court in March asking that the disciplinary action against Perry be rescinded and all evidence of the action be removed from her personnel file, as well as any other “proper” relief.
Perry was notified she was being placed on a 60-day disciplinary probation by Town Manager Linda-Jean Briggs via a letter received Jan. 14, according to the lawsuit’s file.
In the letter, Briggs alleged Perry willfully violated the town’s personnel policy on “incompletion, indolence or inefficiency in the performance of duties,” has an “overall disgruntled attitude,” used profane language when referring to Briggs and brought “negative scrutiny” to the town through Perry’s dealings with the press and social media, among a variety of other allegations.
At the end of the letter, Briggs said Perry may be retained if her behavior is corrected at the end of the probationary period. Otherwise, she would begin termination procedures.
In an a written appeal to Briggs dated Feb. 11, Perry contended most of the allegations are either “incorrect, or do not fully represent the fact[s]” and asked for the probation to be rescinded. Perry went on to address most of the allegations individually, denying most of them and acknowledging a few issues as anomalies.
Perry wrote, “It is my wish to remain in my position and to continue to serve the people of the town of Waldoboro to the best of my ability. I am not disgruntled. I appreciate and enjoy my job.”
Briggs ultimately denied Perry’s appeal.
According to the complaint in the court file, there is no provision in the town’s personnel manual for Perry to appeal Briggs’ denial, and the selectmen “have indicated they would not become involved and had no role in this matter under town policy.”
“No opportunity has been provided for [Perry] to pursue an appeal in any meaningful manner, or to learn the basis for the disciplinary action other than the conclusory statements that there were complaints from co-workers” about her attitude, according to the complaint.
The other issues in the original letter reference “differences of opinion” between Perry and Briggs about Perry’s duties and her absence from work due to a family medical emergency and do not “provide any basis for the serious discipline that is sought to be imposed,” according to the complaint.
Disagreement between Briggs and Perry over Perry’s duties predate the disciplinary probation by several months.
A letter from Briggs to Perry dated June 26, 2014, says Briggs found a number of administrative tasks to be the town clerk’s responsibility, though they had been performed “in the recent past” by Information Technology Coordinator Liam Ducharme. Ducharme also serves as an administrative assistant for the town, among other roles.
The duties include paperwork and scheduling public hearings for liquor licenses and special amusement, pool hall and other permits; and taking minutes for select board meetings, among others.
In a reply, Perry contended those duties have been performed by the administrative assistant for several years prior to her start as town clerk 12 years ago, and adding those duties to her workload would require her to work more than 40 hours per week.
Briggs, however, determined Perry’s workload is such “that a reasonable person should be able to accomplish all assigned tasks within a 40-hour work week,” according to her original letter notifying Perry of the disciplinary probation.
Perry’s attorneys have filed a motion seeking a “trial of the facts” under Rule 80B of the Maine Rules of Civil Procedure, saying Briggs’ opinion on the workload cannot stand as a basis for a disciplinary action without an opportunity for Perry to rebut.
The conclusory statements about Perry’s behavior and attitude also need to be addressed in regard to their basis for disciplinary action, according to the motion.
Messages left for Perry seeking comment were not returned as of this posting, and Roger Therriault, one of her attorneys, declined to comment on the case.
Briggs also declined to comment.
“Anything media-related should go through … the town’s attorney,” Briggs said.
A message left April 30 for Matt Tarasevich, the town’s attorney in the case, was not returned as of this posting.
Issues surrounding Briggs and Perry drew attention earlier this year when a petition was submitted to the Waldoboro Board of Selectmen asking them to discontinue the use of Briggs’ services as town manager.
At the time, Waldoboro resident Katherine Winchenbach, the creator of the petition, said the petition effort began after Perry’s desk was moved away from the front business window to one just outside Briggs’ office.
“The town’s citizens would like to know why [the move of Perry’s desk] took place and why the town clerk is being treated in a humiliating manner,” reads a copy of the petition’s cover letter Winchenbach provided. “Everyone who signed this petition is in agreement that our town clerk is a hard worker and does her job to the best of her ability.”
The petition was reportedly signed by 71 people, but The Lincoln County News’ Freedom of Access request for the document was denied because it was considered a confidential complaint about an identifiable employee.