A Franklin County woman says she was fired from her job as an EMT at NorthStar Emergency Medical Services after a supervisor motivated by sex and religious discrimination accused her of embezzling money from the ambulance service.

Margaret Betts, of Rangeley, worked for NorthStar, part of the Franklin Community Health Network, for 14 years before she was fired in May 2014, according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court.

Betts is an atheist and did not share the Christian beliefs of some of her co-workers at the base, according to the lawsuit. She could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Peter Thompson, an attorney for the Maine Employee Rights Group, who represents Betts, also declined to comment Tuesday.

According to the lawsuit, which was filed July 8, a fellow crew member suggested that Betts worshipped the devil. Others would routinely say things such as, “Things would be a lot better for Peggy if she believed in God,” the suit alleges.

Mike Senecal, director of NorthStar EMS, couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday. A man who answered the phone at the ambulance service office directed calls to Jill Gray, a spokeswoman for the Franklin Community Health Network, who said she wasn’t familiar with the lawsuit and no one was available to speak about it Tuesday.

In 2008 Betts was appointed treasurer of the crew fund, money that was used to pay for additional items around the base, after a former employee violated state and federal laws and was moved to a different base, the suit said.

The former employee assaulted a prisoner in handcuffs, stopped for his mail after being dispatched to an emergency call and inappropriately touched a teenage girl under the guise of an examination, according to the suit.

When Betts was appointed treasurer, she prepared a list of rules and regulations and suggested to the base manager, Harold Schaetzle, that the crew review and vote on the list, the suit said. Schaetzle looked at the list, said, “This looks good,” and put it into a file cabinet, according to the suit. The rules were never brought up at a meeting or voted on.

Betts didn’t keep formal accounting paperwork for the fund, but she managed the account by either buying items with money from the fund or with her own money and then reimbursing herself with money from the fund.

She said she was encouraged by her co-workers to reimburse herself for items she bought with her own money for the base, such as cleaning supplies.

Other purchases included a television and a recliner for the base that Betts also contributed her own money toward, and an electronic weather station. At one point the crew was having a staff party and Betts, at the prompting of another crew member, used money from the account for party supplies such as food, balloons and dishes, the suit said.

In March 2014, according to the suit, Schaetzle, in violation of federal law, opened a bank statement that had been mailed to Betts at the base and had her name on the envelope.

The statement showed an account balance of $259. Schaetzle spoke to the rest of the five-person crew and others outside the base about the account and accused Betts of embezzling, the suit said. He asked another crew member, Corey Bonnevie, to speak with Betts about the fund. He also told Bonnevie that he didn’t trust Betts, saying she was immoral and untrustworthy because she is an atheist, the suit said.

Schaetzle passed the account statement to Senecal, the director of NorthStar, and reported that he believed Betts was embezzling funds. Betts then was asked to meet with Senecal and other company officials and to bring financial statements dating back to 2008, including receipts for all purchases she had made with the crew funds during the last five years.

She paid an $87 bank fee to obtain copies of statements, a cost for which Betts says she was not reimbursed. Betts told officials that she didn’t have receipts from many of the day-to-day items she had bought, such as cleaning supplies for the base, and offered to pay back money that she could not account for.

The offer was rejected and on May 14, 2014, she was fired after failing to account for $1,925 in funds, the suit said. The suit asks that the court recognize that Betts’ rights were violated by NorthStar and its employees and that the court order NorthStar to give Betts her job back and pay her for damages, back pay and attorney’s fees.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm


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