The officer who once accused Hallowell Police Chief Eric Nason of sexual assault has left the department, and officials are wrangling over how much the city should be reimbursed for sending her to training.

Since January, Hallowell has been paying for the officer to attend the Maine Criminal Justice Academy’s 18-week training program, which ends this month. That ended Friday, when she resigned from the department for a full-time officer’s job in Thomaston.

But in a 4-3 vote at a Monday meeting, the Hallowell City Council rejected a deal negotiated between City Manager Michael Starn and Thomaston that would have had the town pay Hallowell a $15,000 reimbursement for training costs. That’s $15,000 less than what Hallowell could have received if the officer had been hired after graduation and about $5,000 less than the city says it paid in salary and other costs to send her to training.

Opponents on the council said Starn’s deal didn’t get the city enough reimbursement, given that the officer was in good standing and already had been hired by Thomaston when they voted on it.

“There was absolutely no reason given to establish a precedent of giving away the taxpayers’ expectation of reimbursement of tuition,” said Councilor Alan Stearns, who voted against the deal and has been critical of the city’s handling of the Nason case.

The Kennebec Journal reported in June 2014 that the chief had been investigated in 2013 by the Maine State Police after the officer said she was too drunk to consent to have sex with him at his West Gardiner camp. Nason denied the allegation. The state police investigation ended with no charges filed against the chief. She was hired as a full-time officer that year, reporting to Nason.

The Kennebec Journal hasn’t named the officer, now 23, because she is an alleged victim of a sexual assault crime.

In response to the allegation against Nason, city councilors in October approved a new city ordinance banning relationships between city supervisors and their employees, while mandating sexual harassment training for all employees.

In December, Nason apologized to city councilors for the relationship with a subordinate and said that his “lack of judgment” has hurt his family and caused “embarrassment to the community that I love.” On Jan. 2, the council voted 5-2 to reappoint Nason to his post as police chief, despite the allegation made by the officer and a second sexual misconduct complaint from another woman who alleged Nason had taken a pornographic picture of her as she slept in 1997.

The officer resigned from Hallowell’s force effective Friday. Starn said Hallowell paid $20,300 in salary, benefits, tuition and overtime pay to cover shifts and other costs for the officer’s time at the academy.

In many cases, police agencies send officers to the academy who are hired by other departments after graduation. For those situations, state law and academy trustees set rates at which the hiring agency should reimburse the sending agency. That scale starts at $30,000 in the year after graduation and decreases $6,000 a year for five years following graduation, but agencies can come to other agreements.

It’s less common for agencies to hire people during training. John Rogers, director of the Vassalboro-based academy, said it’s happened only seven or eight times in his 12-year tenure, during which about 1,200 people have graduated.

In a statement released by the officer’s attorney, David Webbert, she said she’ll graduate from the academy next week, and “as part of moving ahead with my law enforcement career,” she accepted the full-time job and appreciates “the privilege of serving the citizens of Thomaston.” Starn said Webbert had no part in negotiating the settlement.

The officer is now a Thomaston employee, and Police Chief Kevin Haj said his department will pay her to attend the rest of the training. Haj said he hadn’t heard of the Hallowell council’s decision until a reporter called him Wednesday, but the officer is a town employee and Hallowell must “figure something out” and “communicate with us.”

Starn said he’ll keep trying to negotiate a deal with Thomaston.

Along with Stearns, councilors Phillip Lindley, Mark Sullivan and Lynn Irish opposed the deal negotiated by Starn, who said he proposed it because the officer “indicated that she did not want to work in Hallowell in the long term,” and “I want people to want to work in Hallowell.” It was backed by the members of the city’s Personnel Committee: Councilors George Lapointe, Lisa Harvey-McPherson and Kate Dufour.

“I quite honestly thought that the council would approve it,” Starn said, “but they decided not to, and now we have to deal with that outcome.”

Michael Shepherd — 370-7652

[email protected]

Twitter: @mikeshepherdme


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