STANDISH — The former town manager claims he is a victim of assault and false allegations of harassment by an employee, and would welcome the opportunity to say so in court.
Kris Tucker on Tuesday said a third-party investigation for the town exonerated him of harassment allegations by a person the probe identified as a town employee whose mother is a town councilor.
Tucker also claims he was the victim of assault and sexual harassment by the unidentified town employee. He declined to identify the employee and the councilor.
Before he was fired, Tucker’s administrative assistant was Ruth-Ann LaBrecque, the daughter of Town Councilor Kimberly Pomerleau.
Several attempts to reach LaBrecque Wednesday before the newspaper’s deadline were unsuccessful.
Pomerleau said Wednesday she was not aware of any allegations by either Tucker or her daughter, and that she stays “so far away” from her daughter and son’s jobs with the town.
Pomerleau’s son, Robert Caron, is director of public safety. Her husband Phil Pomerleau is a former town councilor.
Tucker called the public safety director “an exemplary employee.” He said he “has not been part of this in any way.”
The Standish Town Council issued a press release Friday in response to this story after it was initially published.
“The council feels those allegations have no credibility,” the release said. “The council is proud of its town employees.”
Tucker said he filed a complaint against the employee, who allegedly kicked him from behind in an apparent attempt at humor.
A Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office captain confirmed Wednesday that Tucker filed a complaint July 26, three days after Tucker was fired and long after he claimed the incident took place.
Tucker said he did not file a complaint at the time the assault occurred for several reasons, including that he was still in the probationary period of his contract.
“I was working really hard to make a good impression and do well by people. I didn’t think the citizens of Standish would appreciate their new manager dragging the town through the mud,” Tucker said. “But since some of the councilors have kind of already done that on their own, I guess now’s the time to tell my side.”
Tucker said the same employee who kicked him made the allegations of harassment against him, including that he discussed a potentially cancerous lump on one of his testicles. Tucker said he told her about it after she asked because she had access to his appointment schedules.
The council on July 23 voted 6-1, with Pomerleau voting in the majority, to terminate Tucker’s contract without cause. Council Chairman Steven Nesbitt said this week that councilors are not at liberty to discuss details of the action. He emphasized this week that the firing is “still a personnel issue.”
Further, he noted that Tucker has hired a lawyer and legal action “certainly could be a possibility.”
When asked to acknowledge the third-party review, Nesbitt would not comment.
“I have no comment on the investigation,” he said.
Nesbitt said the council had no conversations outside of executive session about whether Pomerleau should be recused from deliberations related to Tucker’s termination because her daughter was his assistant. He declined to say if such discussions took place in executive session.
Tucker and his attorney, Gregg Frame of the Portland law firm Taylor, McCormick & Frame, showed the Lakes Region Weekly a heavily redacted copy of what they said is the third-party review conducted by human resources professional Deb Whitworth of HR Studio Group in Falmouth.
Tucker said the review looked into allegations by a town employee, identified in the document as “person 1,” who, he said, made a “mysterious harassment accusation” him.
The Lakes Region Weekly was able to inspect only portions of the document, and was not given a copy. The document was not clearly attributed to any particular individual, but was on HR Studio Group letterhead.
“I believe the Town Manager is holding employees accountable. The Town Manager is in a very awkward position,” the report said. “The person who made the claim is the daughter of a town councilor, a boss of the Town Manager.”
Frame said the report could not be shared with the newspaper in its entirety because it contains other town employees’ personal information.
Tucker, through Frame, gave the town the authority to release his personnel file to the Lakes Region Weekly. Frame received a copy of the file, he said, but would not share it directly with the Lakes Region Weekly because “there could be an argument that what you get from us is culled to support Kris.”
The Lakes Region Weekly has filed a Freedom of Access request with the town, but so far has been unsuccessful in obtaining documents related to Tucker’s performance and termination, including any outside investigation that the town may have commissioned.
Asked last week to confirm a third-party review took place, Whitworth deferred the question to the town’s law firm, Jensen Baird Gardner & Henry. The town’s attorney would not comment last week and did not return a phone call this week.
Tucker said he did not initially tell Whitworth about his alleged assault by a staff member because at that time he “did not know who I was defending against and did not want to take a scorched earth approach to this.”
“I was assaulted in the workplace by one of my staff, in front of witnesses. Due to the nature of the assault, it was also sexual harassment,” Tucker said. “Unfortunately, the employee, well, she had a parent who was my boss, which made it very difficult to deal with.”
Tucker said he was slightly bent over a high counter looking on as another employee showed him something on a computer.
“She thought it would be funny to come up behind me, again in front of witnesses, and firmly kick me in the lower buttock, rear-groin, and then laugh uproariously about it,” he said.
Another employee approached him later “completely distraught and scandalized” by the incident, he said.
Following the incident, Tucker said, he sent the employee involved to sexual harassment training.
“And I accompanied her on that training just because, you know, you can never get too much as a manager, and I also wanted to know what my rights were,” he said.
“She complained that I told her about a lump on my testicle … and the reason I told her, as is mentioned by the outside investigator specifically, is I was asked,” Tucker continued. “I was asked by person 1, who does medical pool (work), so sees our appointments.”
Tucker, 44, was hired by a 5-2 council vote last fall and started as manager last December. He moved to Standish from Virginia.
Frame said Tucker bought a house in Standish at the urging of councilors, who wanted him to live in town. Not long after, Frame said, councilors gave his client poor performance reviews.
“Same guy who, weeks before, they’re encouraging to buy a house. What’s changed? Well, an investigation that completely exonerates him and really leaves the town with some egg on its face,” Frame said. “And that fact that, here’s a potential cancer patient as their town manager.”
Tucker, who said he has lately received encouraging news from a radiologist, said he was informed of the firing during an executive session with council July 18.
“I sat around being insulted, debased and degraded for about an hour and a half, and then fired,” he said. “And given no cause, and it was made official at the following Monday meeting.
“They told me not to return to the building,” he said. “They asked me to go to that public meeting, but by that point, I hadn’t eaten or slept in quite a while.”
Tucker called the firing “one of the most disappointing experiences of my life” but said “people have been coming out of the woodwork” to support him.
“I’ve spent my whole life building my reputation. And for a few – a very few number of people to come together and make a concerted effort to distort and ruin that reputation based on information they knew was false, it was devastating,” he said.
The council said in its Friday press release that it evaluated Tucker’s performance in early July and the termination was “not an easy decision to make” but felt it was in the best interest of the town.
“While the town of Standish understands the disappointment Mr. Tucker is experiencing due to the termination of his contract, the town wants to clarify that Mr. Tucker’s termination was due to performance issues,” the release said.
“While the council wishes it could comment further, it needs to respect the fact that this is a personnel issue and cannot do so at this time,” it said.
Tucker would not say definitively if he plans to sue the town, but did say he would be able to speak more freely about council executive sessions in a courtroom, and would welcome that opportunity.
“I want to be made whole, and I also want to be able to see some accountability,” Tucker said. “My tenure there was all about change and accountability, and providing access to government for everyone in town, and not just a select few.”
Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.
Editor’s note: Attorney Gregg Frame has represented the reporter’s parents in an unrelated property rights case.