Millinocket’s former police chief and former town manager have sued the town, town officials, two residents, two of the former chief’s past employers, the union that used to represent Millinocket officers and others nearly two years after both men were fired and the town council voted to disband its police department.
Harold “John” Davis Jr. and Craig Worster, the former town manager and police chief, respectively, filed the suit in Penobscot County Superior Court on Monday. The lawsuit came nearly two years after both men filed a notice announcing their intention to sue and accuses the defendants of negligence, defamation, breach of contract, unlawful firing, invasion of privacy, fraud, infliction of emotional distress and hindering their future employment prospects, among other counts.
The 21 defendants include former and current town councilors, the former Millinocket police union and its national parent union, two police departments where Worster worked before Millinocket, Lincoln County’s top prosecutor, a Brunswick defense attorney, the town of Millinocket and current and former town managers, and two Millinocket residents.
The lawsuit appears to have one of the largest numbers of defendants of any case ever filed in Penobscot County.
Davis and Worster are seeking a jury trial and unspecified amounts of punitive and compensatory damages on each of the 16 counts their attorney, Ezra Willey, outlines in the 50-page lawsuit.
Willey did not respond to a request for comment.
The Millinocket Town Council fired Davis as town manager in September 2020, after months of controversy involving Worster, whom he hired in 2019 to lead the police department.
Deputy police Chief Janet Theriault, one of the defendants in the lawsuit, accused Worster of creating a hostile work environment and bullying and harassing suspects and community members, according to a complaint she filed against him in February 2020.
Davis had dismissed her complaint and declined to punish Worster, which the town council cited when it fired him on Sept. 24, 2020.
Annette Padilla, also a defendant in the Davis and Worster’s lawsuit, then took over as interim town manager and fired Worster that December.
Worster’s firing was overturned after an appeal, but he had no job to return to because the town council voted to disband the police department and contract with nearby East Millinocket for public safety services.
Theriault’s complaint revolved around an incident at Stearns High School in February 2020 in which she and Worster got into an argument and she went on medical leave in the aftermath. Teamsters Local 340, which represented Millinocket police officers, filed a complaint on Theriault’s behalf.
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the parent union for the former Millinocket police union, and former president James Hoffa Jr. and former general secretary-treasurer Ken Hall were also named as defendants.
Brett Miller, the president of Teamsters Local 340, did not return a request for comment. The local represents state employees, freight workers, police officers and firefighters across Maine.
Theriault settled with the town in February 2021.
The lawsuit accuses many of the defendants of engaging in a “campaign of disparagement” against Davis and Worster after Davis found that Worster had not engaged in any misconduct in response to Theriault’s complaint.
Those defendants were Town Council Chair Steve Golieb, councilors Michael Madore and Louie Pelletier, and Padilla, who allegedly worked with Lorne Smith, the former business agent for Teamsters Local 340, residents Susan D’Alessandro and Jennifer Murray Stanley, and Theriault’s attorney Michael Cunniff.
They shared “private and confidential information” and “untrue, false and misleading information…purely in an attempt to disparage both [Worster and Davis], as well as to interfere with both plaintiffs’ employment contracts, cause emotional and personal upset and harm…and to otherwise force both out of a job and to publicly ruin both plaintiffs,” Willey said in the lawsuit.
Willey said that Davis had received three performance evaluations before his firing that had been positive and hadn’t indicated any problems.
“It’s really unfortunate,” Golieb said of Davis and Worster’s lawsuit. “I’ll see them in court.”
Pelletier said Worster and Davis’ claims were “baseless” and the Town Council found that Davis had “administrative shortcomings,” like poor communication skills, toward the end of his tenure.
“I don’t think they’ll succeed,” Pelletier said.
Madore did not respond to a request for comment.
D’Alessandro and Murray Stanley, who organized rallies and circulated a petition and GoFundMe campaign in support of Theriault, said they hadn’t been officially served with notice of the lawsuit when contacted for comment.
“This is news to me,” D’Alessandro said.
The lawsuit said that she and Murray Stanley “spearheaded” a campaign against Worster and “spread false and misleading information about both Worster and Davis in an attempt to tarnish their names and reputations and also to encourage Town Councilors to terminate” them.
Murray Stanley and D’Alessandro “maliciously attack[ed]” Davis and Worster on Facebook, misrepresented the reason for Theriault’s medical leave, and shared confidential parts of Worster’s employment files from the Ridgefield, Connecticut, and Wiscasset police departments that they had received via records requests, Willey said in the suit.
“The dissemination was meant to do nothing but harass, intimidate, embarrass, or otherwise harm the reputation of Worster and was done with malicious intent,” the lawsuit said.
Willey also said in the lawsuit that Murray Stanley and D’Alessandro contacted Worster’s daughter, with whom he had a strained relationship, in “an attempt to further alienate the child from her father,” and that Worster’s relationship with his child was now “fatally interfered with” because of their actions.
Natasha Irving, the district attorney for four midcoast counties, and Brunswick defense lawyer Andrew Wright were named as defendants because they shared information that Worster said was confidential with the Bangor Daily News that had called his credibility into question during his time at the Wiscasset Police Department, known as a Giglio impairment, due to his actions during a woman’s 2018 drunk driving arrest.
The lawsuit said this impairment had never been discussed with Worster prior to a BDN article in March 2021 that referenced it, that the information was “false and misleading” and that Irving had shared it with the reporter with malicious intent.
Neither Irving nor Wright responded to requests for comment.
Major Stephen Brown of the Ridgefield Police Department in Connecticut, who retired last September, was also named as a defendant because he had “disseminated false and misleading information to news outlets” that had “caused [Worster] significant damage, not only to his reputation, employability, but to his family, causing Worster significant emotional harm,” Willey said.
Worster was a police officer at the Connecticut department from 2000 to 2015, when he resigned the day after investigators questioned him during an internal investigation that found he had created a hostile work environment and made sexually explicit comments.
He later joined the Wiscasset Police Department, where he was a school resource officer and later sergeant until he left following an internal investigation.
He was also a police officer in Damariscotta, according to his LinkedIn profile.