The Maine Human Rights Commission has found no reasonable grounds to allegations from a former Franklin County corrections officer who said he was fired for having a mental disability.
The former officer, Robert Shufelt of Jay, was fired two years ago after what jail officials say was an unprovoked assault on an inmate. Shufelt argues in the commission report that another officer at the jail assaulted an inmate and wasn’t fired, but he was fired because the county “did not know how to deal with his mental disability.”
An investigator with the human rights commission, Angela Fizon, reported that Shufelt had not been discriminated against on the basis of disability when his job was terminated.
Shufelt “was clearly terminated directly following an altercation with an inmate that was determined to be an assault,” the report states.
If Shufelt, who is representing himself, objects to the investigator’s finding, then he and Attorney Peter Marchesi, Franklin County’s lawyer, will present oral arguments to the commission June 9. Otherwise, the case will be dismissed.
Commission findings are not law, but may become grounds for lawsuits.
Jail Administrator Doug Blauvelt did not return requests for comment and Shufelt could not be reached for comment.
The report said that Shufelt cannot prove that county commissioners perceived him as disabled or that his disability was connected to his firing.
Shufelt worked for the Franklin County Detention Center from 1988 until March 7, 2012, when he was fired, according to the report. He had been in a physical fight with an inmate Feb. 11, 2012, and on Feb. 14, 2012, and he was suspended with pay while the department investigated the assault. The department concluded that Shufelt assaulted an inmate without provocation.
A hearing was held a month later with the Franklin County Commissioners regarding the assault and the commissioners unanimously voted to terminate Shufelt’s employment.
Shufelt said he was first diagnosed over three and a half years ago with a mental disability not specified in the investigator’s report. At the time, he was hospitalized and was out of work on medical leave for about six months. When he returned, Shufelt said he was demoted. The county disputes that he was demoted when he returned to work, the report says.
The other officer Shufelt accused of assaulting an inmate was investigated in March. He was suspended for two days, unpaid, with a warning that future incidents could result in termination. He was hired in August of 2012 and remains employed.
Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252 | [email protected]