GOULDSBORO, Maine — The former police chief has filed a lawsuit against the town, claiming that his rights were violated when he was terminated as chief in early February.
Paul Gamble, who is a Gouldsboro resident, was dismissed as chief on Feb. 3 after town officials faulted him for using a town credit card to pay for gas in his personal pickup truck, according to the lawsuit.
In court documents, Gamble claims he was authorized to use the card and that he was instructed by Bryan Kaenrath, Gouldsboro’s town manager, to use his personal vehicle when conducting police business outside of town.
Gamble wrote in the complaint that between August 2015 and February 2016, he used his truck for police business outside Gouldsboro approximately 20 times but that he only used the town credit card on four of those occasions to refuel his truck. The total amount of charges he incurred on the card, he added, was $120.
Gamble had worked part-time as a police officer for the town since 2012 before he was promoted to chief in August 2015, according to documents filed in Hancock County Superior Court. Prior to becoming the local police chief, Gamble also worked as the sole full-time police officer for Swan’s Island.
Gamble is seeking a court order to be reinstated as chief, to be awarded back pay and benefits, and for the town to pay his legal fees and “all other remedies” to which he is entitled, including compensatory damages for violation of his due process rights, defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The complaint does not include a specific dollar estimate for what these costs and damages might be.
Separate attempts on Friday to contact Gamble’s attorney, James Clifford of Kennebunk, and the town’s attorney, Daniel Pileggi of Ellsworth, were unsuccessful.
Kaenrath on Friday declined to comment in detail about Gamble’s lawsuit, but said the town has received a copy of the complaint and that it intends to “vigorously” defend itself and local taxpayers from the former chief’s allegations.
He added that the town is in the process of hiring a new chief, having whittled a pool of eight applicants down to three finalists. He said the town is scheduling interviews for the three finalists and hopes to have a new chief in place within a month.
Gamble indicates in his court complaint that the town selectmen met in executive session on Feb. 2, the day before he was terminated, to discuss his employment, but that he was not given advance notice or the opportunity to be present during the session, which is a violation of state law. He also claims he was not given sufficient advance notice of the Feb. 3 executive session, at which he was present.
Gamble alleges that he was dismissed without “cause, notice and hearing,” despite the fact that he had successfully completed his probationary term as a new chief. Town employees can only be dismissed without cause, notice and hearing if they are still in their probationary periods as new town employees, he said.
Gamble claims in his complaint that because he already was employed by the town when he got the police chief position, his probationary period was for three months — as indicated in the town’s written personnel policy — instead of six months, which is the probationary period for people previously unemployed by the town.
This being the case, Gamble says, his probationary period as chief ended in November.
The town’s position, according to court documents, is that Gamble’s probationary period was for six months and did not expire until the end of February, which allowed town officials to dismiss him without cause on Feb. 3.
Gamble’s firing marks the third time in the past 14 years that Gouldsboro officials have fired the town’s police chief. The town twice fired Guy Wycoff from the position — once in July 2002, before reinstating him as chief a few weeks later, and then again in 2008.