A former special education teacher has sued former superintendent of Portland schools Xavier Botana, claiming retaliation over complaints of understaffing.

Eric Poulin, who also names the Portland school district in the lawsuit, claims that he was wrongfully terminated after bringing up staffing shortages, the Portland Press Herald reported on Thursday.

Poulin had raised concerns about staffing shortages at the time that Benjamin Conroy, who had worked at a Portland elementary school, was arrested and charged with sexually exploiting a child. Poulin had been working with K-1 students at the time Conroy was charged, the Portland newspaper reported.

Poulin had also raised concerns that the district’s understaffing challenges led to the circumstances that allowed Conroy with one-on-one access to a student, the Press Herald reported. Conroy admitted in September 2022 to sexually abusing a 7-year-old student with autism.

Former superintendent Botana said at the time of Conroy’s arrest that staffing shortages were not responsible for Conroy’s one-on-one access to the student.

This year, Poulin did not receive an offer to renew his contract with the Portland school district, and the lawsuit claims the decision not to rehire him was due to the fact he raised concerns over staffing. The school district said in a statement that the decision not to rehire teachers is based on job performance, the Portland newspaper reported.

Botana resigned as the district’s superintendent in December following months of payroll issues, which were later credited to lack of staffing and software issues. A forensic audit in February of the district’s payroll delays cited the fact that the Portland school system had just one full-time temporary manager and a part-time payroll specialist at the time the issues arose.

Leela Stockley is an alumna of the University of Maine. She was raised in northern Maine, and loves her cat Wesley, her puppy Percy and staying active in the Maine outdoors.