Standish pays $44K to fired manager

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STANDISH — The town has made severance and health care payments to fired Town Manager Kris Tucker, but his lawyer suggests the issue has not been completely settled.

“We will be communicating with the town in the coming week about a demand to resolve this matter,” attorney Gregg Frame said in an Aug. 21 email to the Lakes Region Weekly.

The council voted 6-1 on July 23 to terminate Tucker’s contract without cause, meaning he was entitled to severance and health care payments.

Standish Finance Director Scott Gesualdi, who is serving as co-acting town manager with Public Works Director Roger Mosley, said the town made Tucker’s severance and health care payments on Aug. 9.

Frame confirmed this week that payment was received from the town.

Tucker’s total severance payout was $41,013 and he received nearly $3,000 in health insurance, according to Gesualdi. Of that total severance money, more than $14,000 stemmed from accrued vacation time.

The council voted 6-0 Aug. 14 to authorize a contract with Portland-based law firm Eaton Peabody for a new town manager search. Eaton Peabody also led the town’s manager search last year that led to Tucker’s hiring.

“With the work that Eaton Peabody has done for us, I’m very comfortable with them doing it for us again,” said Councilor Greg Sirpis at last week’s council meeting.

The town will pay Eaton Peabody $4,000 under the contract, with an additional 20 percent in contingency funds authorized should the cost of the search exceed $4,000.

The town previously employed Eaton Peabody for $8,000 and Council Chairman Steven Nesbitt said the prior experience and familiarity with the town helps explain why the price tag has been halved.

After his firing, Tucker made allegations of assault and sexual harassment against an unnamed town employee, and said he was the victim of false allegations made by the same employee.

Tucker claimed the employee kicked him from behind in an apparent attempt at humor. Tucker filed a complaint with the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office, and a Sherriff’s Captain said that as of Aug. 22 the investigation is closed, information was presented to the District Attorney’s Office and no charges have been filed.

In a July 31 interview, Tucker said that a third party review conducted by human resources professional Deb Whitworth of HR Studio Group in Falmouth exonerated him of unspecified harassment claims made against him.

The town denied a Lakes Region Weekly Freedom of Access request to obtain or review a copy of the third party review, and did so without confirming that the report exists.

However, the town clerk responded this week to a follow-up on the information request and said that Standish paid $13,750 to HR Studio Group without specifying why that payment was made. The payment was made in two installments on July 30 and Aug. 22, Gesualdi said.

Following a Lakes Region Weekly story detailing Tucker’s allegations, Nesbitt sent out a press release saying the council “feels those allegations have no credibility” and stressing that Tucker’s firing was due “to performance issues.”

Nesbitt has also said the council is limited in what it can discuss about the firing, calling it a personnel issue and acknowledging that it could possibly wind up in court.

“At this time, there is no lawsuit that has been brought forth,” Nesbitt said Aug. 14.

In addition to its manager search, the council is also seeking to replace one of its own members after Councilor Isabel Higgins resigned Aug. 8. 

Higgins cited “increasingly stressful situations and confrontational meetings” in her letter of resignation and told a reporter she was “tired of having my integrity questioned.”

Standish resident Kathy Johnson addressed the council Aug. 20 and recognized Higgins for her service.

“I just wanted to say – I know she’s not here tonight to hear it, but hopefully she’ll see it – that I thought she did a great job,” Johnson said, adding that she hoped everyone can work together to improve the situation in town.

“I’m going to miss her. I may not have agreed with everything she said, but I thought her intentions were really good,” Johnson said.

Nesbitt said last week that Higgins apologized to him when she left her final meeting, an Aug. 7 executive session held the day before she resigned.

“Councilor Higgins has nothing to apologize about. It is me who has to apologize to her and to the residents of Standish for this to happen,” he said. “Being the chair, I take full responsibility of what’s happened.”

The council voted 6-0 to accept Higgins resignation, and will appoint her replacement after accepting applications for her Area 1 seat. The future appointee must live in the town’s Area 1 District.

“I will miss her as well. I do think it’s a loss, and I wish her the best,” Nesbitt added.

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or mjunker@keepmecurrent.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.

Editor’s note: Kris Tucker’s attorney, Gregg Frame, has represented the reporter’s parents in an unrelated property rights case.

The Town of Standish is looking to fill a vacancies for its Town Manager position and its Area 1 Town Council Seat.

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