February 04, 2023

Ex-Ellsworth official claims discrimination

BANGOR – A former municipal employee has sued the city of Ellsworth in federal court, alleging it violated the Americans With Disabilities Act when it decided not to renew his contract after 16 years.

John Dunn, 61, of Ellsworth, the city’s code enforcement officer from February 1988 to June 2004, filed the six-count complaint this week in U.S. District Court.

Last month, the Maine Human Rights Commission found no reasonable grounds in Dunn’s claim against the city, but he moved forward with the civil lawsuit anyway.

In it he alleges that the city discriminated against him because of a disability brought on by illness and his age. He also claims the city denied due process and violated the Family Medical Leave Act.

Dunn is seeking unspecified damages. His attorney, Phillip Johnson of Augusta, did not return a call Friday for comment.

The city responded to Dunn’s claim on Thursday by filing an answer in federal court, outlining 16 defenses as to why his complaint is without merit.

“[The city] made good faith efforts in consultation with [Dunn] to identify and make a reasonable accommodation that would provide [him] with an equally effective opportunity and would not cause an undue hardship on the operation of the business,” the document stated.

Dunn battled several illnesses, including cancer, for much of the 1990s, which resulted in disability, according to his complaint. He took medical leave from time to time and often returned on a 30-hour-a-week basis until he could resume full-time duties.

Eventually, though, the city hired a full-time assistant code enforcement officer who handled the bulk of Dunn’s duties in his absence. On June 30, 2004, when it came time for the city to reappoint Dunn to his position, city staff decided instead not to.

In additional to his health problems, Dunn was seriously injured in May 2001 when he drove his sport utility vehicle into an oil tanker truck. He spent time in the hospital after the accident and later faced criminal charges alleging that he drove into the truck on purpose.

He later attributed the accident to an altered state of mind induced by medication that Dunn was taking for cancer and depression treatment. Dunn pleaded no contest in the case as part of a deal with prosecutors that kept him out of jail.

He remained at his post as Ellsworth’s code enforcement officer after the plea agreement.

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