AUGUSTA — The former tree warden for the Town of Belgrade is suing the town and Select Board Chairman Ernie Rice claiming she was unfairly removed from her post two years ago and defamed.

The lawsuit by Lisa Carr, an arborist and professional forester licensed in Maine as tish carr, was filed last month in Kennebec Superior Court at the Capital Judicial Center. Carr’s attorney, Lisa Butler, said the town had been served previously with a notice of claim that a lawsuit would be filed over Carr’s dismissal. Butler said Carr’s legal name is Lisa Carr.

In April 2013, Belgrade selectmen voted 4-1 against the reappointment of Carr as the town’s tree warden following the unauthorized cutting of a hazardous tree on private property a month earlier. The selectboard had denied a request from the committee in March to remove a hazardous tree overhanging Location Road because it was on private property, but the tree was still cut down.

The contractor who cut it claimed responsibility for doing it without permission. Carr had been the town’s tree warden since 1999. She also was employed as arborist for the City of Augusta 2001 to 2005 and prior to that worked for 21/2 years as community forestry program coordinator for the Maine Department of Conservation.

In deciding against reappointment, selectmen also referred to the Belgrade Tree Committee’s planting of trees several months earlier on private property along Main Street in Belgrade Village. The project used public money.

That July, the town’s seven-member tree committee resigned, citing the loss of Carr and the Select Board’s lack of appreciation for the tree committee’s efforts.

The lawsuit cites an April 3, 2013, article in the Kennebec Journal that indicates Carr would be asked to resign and which quotes Rice as saying, “I just feel the damage that has been done really falls on the shoulders of that person.”

The claim says that “as a consequence of defendants’ defamatory statements and discriminatory termination of her employment without notice, hearing or just cause, plaintiff Carr has suffered damages including but not limited to injury to reputation, anxiety, distress, humiliation, inconvenience, injury to career, loss of employment and earnings and other pecuniary and nonpecuniary losses.”

Other claims say the town violated Carr’s federal due process rights when they removed her without notice or hearing.

Mark Franco, who represents both the town and Rice, said he was served with a copy of the lawsuit on Friday and had yet to formulate an answer to the court. However, he said he was familiar with some of the claims because Carr had filed a similar complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission. The commission did not act on the case, instead issuing Carr a right-to-sue letter at her request.

Franco maintained that Carr was a volunteer, not an employee of the town.

He also said that he anticipates seeking removal of the action to federal court.

“Given the fact that the plaintiff has asserted federal due process claims, the town has the right to remove the case to federal court and is in the process of weighing that option,” Franco said.

Carr also cites claims under the Whistleblower’s Protection Act, saying she “received or other remuneration, including insurance, professional licensing credits and trainings for her services as tree warden for the Town of Belgrade” and that she raised safety concerns about trees that were hazards to people and property. She says she was terminated in retaliation for raising those claims.

She also says both Rice and Town Manager Gregory Gill defamed her professional station, occupation and work performance.

Carr is seeking judgment in her favor in all the claims, reinstatement to the post of tree warden, and damages as well as notice to all Belgrade employees about the verdict that enjoins them against discrimination or retaliation and a number of other actions.

The lawsuit says Carr is a resident of Norway — she had previously resided in Belgrade — and Carr has been tree warden for the Town of Norway, a volunteer post, for at least six or seven years, according to Town Manager David Holt. He said Monday that it was simultaneous to her holding and then losing the tree warden post in Belgrade.

“I have nothing but good things to say about her,” Holt said.

Holt said Carr has had a seasonal home in Norway for some years.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams


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