A former police officer and the city of Hallowell have reached a settlement stemming from a sexual assault accusation the officer made against Police Chief Eric Nason in 2013.
The female officer, whose identity the Kennebec Journal hasn’t reported because she is a victim of an alleged sexual assault, received $60,000 in late January under terms of the settlement.
Half of the settlement went to her for “alleged non-wage compensatory damages on account of her physical injury on June 2, 2013, as alleged in her complaint.” The other half was paid to a law firm for legal services.
The officer filed an employment discrimination complaint against her former employer with the Maine Human Rights Commission and the Federal Equal Opportunity Commission.
“The city and its former employee are pleased that they have reached an amicable resolution that will enable all concerned to move forward constructively,” City Manager Nate Rudy said in a statement. “In order to promote closure, the parties have agreed to make no further statements about this matter.”
In 2014, the Kennebec Journal reported for the first time that Nason had been the subject of a four-month investigation by the Maine State Police a year earlier for allegedly sexually assaulting a female officer June 2, 2013, at his camp in West Gardiner.
State police concluded their investigation without filing any charges and Nason denied wrongdoing, saying the encounter was consensual. The state police case was opened June 3, 2013, and closed Oct. 18, 2013.
The complaint alleged that Nason and the officer, along with a colleague of theirs, were drinking alcohol at Nason’s West Gardiner camp that night. The officer told state police she was too drunk to consent to have sex with Nason, and her attorney said she was too intoxicated to remember anything more than bits and pieces of the incident.
The settlement document states that Nason still denies all the officer’s allegations and claims.
During a December 2014 council meeting, Nason apologized to city councilors for the relationship with a subordinate and said that his “lack of judgment” hurt his family and caused “embarrassment to the community that I love.”
After publicity around the allegation involving the officer, another woman told Hallowell officials that Nason had taken a pornographic picture of her as she slept while they dated in 1997. A private investigator hired by the city to look into the Rome woman’s claim said that while Nason admitted having seen the photo, he said he didn’t recall taking it.
In response to both claims against Nason, then-City Manager Michael Starn gave the chief a written reprimand that was placed in his personnel file, saying Nason’s “personal conduct and decision-making” fell “well below the standard of judgment and professionalism expected of you as a law enforcement officer and police chief.” Nason has continued to be reappointed annually as police chief by the City Council, a job he’s held since 2005.
Starn was criticized by some for the way the situation was handled, though at the time there was nothing in Hallowell’s personnel policy that prohibited Nason from having a relationship with a subordinate.
In October 2014 in response to the allegations, the council passed a city policy prohibiting romantic or sexual relationships between supervisors and subordinates and to have mandatory sexual harassment training for all city employees.
The woman, who was 22 at the time of the alleged assault and a part-time officer, was hired full time by the city’s Police Department several months after reporting the incident. She resigned from the Hallowell force in May 2015 for a full-time officer’s job in Thomaston.
The settlement agreement says the officer agreed never to reapply for employment with the city of Hallowell, and the city agreed to provide a favorable written letter of reference.
Jason Pafundi — 621-5663