GARDINER — The city has paid a former chief operator of the wastewater treatment plant $17,861 to settle his claim that there were safety issues at the plant.

Fred Cyr previously said he took a medical leave of absence on the advice of his doctor because of workplace conditions and stress it was causing him. Safety issues surfaced at the plant in 2009, when vandals apparently began targeting it.

Cyr, hired on Nov. 17, 2008, filed a complaint on Aug. 27, 2010, with the Maine Human Rights Commission, saying he lost his job for reporting alleged unsafe working conditions at the plant.

The commission granted a withdrawal request from Cyr on June 30, according to John Gause, spokesman for the commission. He said the human rights panel never ruled in Cyr’s case before the request for withdrawal. Commission findings are not law but may become grounds for lawsuits.

City Manager Scott Morelli said Cyr’s case has been resolved, but he could not comment further because it is considered a legal matter.

Meantime, former city councilor George Trask submitted a Freedom of Access Act request to the city asking for records of payment made to Cyr by the city this year.

Morelli provided Trask with an outline of legal expenses and wrote in a letter dated Nov. 22 that the city made just one payment to Cyr: $17,861 in June. Morelli declined to say whether the payment was a settlement or wages owed Cyr, but the documents supplied to Trask indicate the amount was recorded on Cyr’s pay history report.

“From what I gathered, Fred Cyr was terminated because he wanted to run the plant the way the chief operator should run the plant, but the supervisor didn’t want that,” Trask said Tuesday. “I saw in writing there has been no maintenance (at the plant). The loader hadn’t been serviced since 1983. Fred did all this and kept very, very good records. That’s why he is gone.”

Morelli has said the allegations of unsafe working conditions were trumped up and were simply a way for Cyr and his attorney to get the city to fund a payout.

Maria Fox, Cyr’s attorney, also declined to discuss the case and said, “The matter is resolved. Otherwise, we have no comment.”

Trask said he asked for information about the Cyr case because he wanted to know what it cost taxpayers.

Morelli said the city’s insurance company, Allied World National Assurance Company, covered the legal costs. The city paid $5,000 to Sulloway & Hollis, the legal team assigned to the case by Allied World.

“That was the amount of our deductible,” Morelli wrote in Trask’s letter.

Morelli told Trask that Eaton Peabody, the city’s attorney, did counsel officials on the matter, but the Bangor firm never separated those fees from what it charged for general counsel on other matters.

“So we do not have a total amount spent on the matter prior to it being handed over to insurance legal counsel,” Morelli wrote.

Erik Stumpfel, of Eaton Peabody, said his agency did not spend a lot amount of time on the case.

“I don’t have the impression that it’s been a very expensive matter for our firm,” Stumpfel said. “There weren’t a whole lot of billings for that.”

Mechele Cooper — 621-5663

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