A former sergeant with the Madison Police Department is suing the town of Madison, Somerset County and the county sheriff for wrongful termination, claiming he was fired by the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office shortly after it took over control of the Madison department.

David Trask, who worked for the Madison police for 30 years, also is asking a federal judge to order that the town and the county allow him to return to his full-time job as a police officer in Madison.

In his lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Bangor, Trask said he was not given a reason why he was fired and was told by Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster that his employment was “not going to work out” in December.

Lancaster, the county and the town of Madison have denied any wrongdoing in court documents. Peter Marchesi, an attorney for Somerset County and Dale Lancaster, said the allegations are “absolutely without merit.”

Attorneys for Trask did not respond to requests for comment. Madison Town Manager Tim Curtis also did not respond to requests for comment.

The termination followed a change in policing in Madison in July, when the town dissolved its police department in favor of contracting policing services through the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office.

Town officials and the sheriff’s office said at the time that the five police officers who worked for the Madison department would be offered jobs with the sheriff’s office after they were trained. The plan was touted as a cost-saving measure by which the town could save close to $100,000 annually.

Trask had worked for Madison since 1985.

He was promoted to sergeant in 2002, according to the lawsuit. At the time of his termination, he had the most seniority of any full-time Madison town employee, it said.

In 1992, Trask was accused of using his job as a police officer to gain sexual favors after Celeste Brockelbank said an encounter with Trask at a domestic violence scene led to a short-lived relationship, according to Morning Sentinel archives. Brockelbank complained to the Madison Police Department that Trask had used his position to solicit sex after her husband found out about their relationship.

Trask initially was suspended from his job for two weeks, but he was reinstated with back pay after the Board of Selectmen found the accusations to be without merit. He then sued Brockelbank, whom he accused of conspiring with his then-supervisor Lewis Gordon to get him fired, for defamation of character.

During a trial in January 1997, a jury sided with Brockelbank. Trask was put on indefinite leave as the town considered whether to reinstate disciplinary proceedings, but he was returned to his job after a judge threw out the jury’s decision to award Brockelbank $18,000 in damages.

After the consolidation with the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office on July 1, Trask continued to perform the same job duties with the same equipment in the same location, the lawsuit said. After the transition, the sheriff’s office also reviewed his work as a town employee from before July.

On Dec. 10, Lancaster met with Trask and told him that his employment was terminated, effective immediately.

According to the lawsuit, Trask was not given written notice and was not given any reason for his termination. Instead, Lancaster told Trask that his employment “was not going to work out” and also mentioned to Trask that he knew Trask had hired an attorney recently. The lawsuit points out Trask was represented by a union as a Madison police officer, and Lancaster said Thursday that Somerset County deputies are represented by the same union, the Fraternal Order of Police.

The reasons why Trask might have hired an attorney were not stated in the lawsuit. Both Marchesi and Lancaster said they could not comment on what reasons might have led to Trask’s separation from the sheriff’s office, because the matter is a personnel issue.

The lawsuit asks that the sheriff’s office and town of Madison reinstate Trask to his full-time position and pay him for damages and lost wages.

“(Trask) is continuing to suffer professional and personal injuries, including lost wages and benefits, emotional pain and distress, suffering, … deprivation of professional and career opportunities and other losses,” the suit said.

Marchesi said he believes Trask separated from the sheriff’s office in a way that complied with state and federal law and the agreement between the sheriff’s office and town of Madison and that the separation was warranted.

Mark Franco, an attorney for the town of Madison, also wrote in court documents that the town is not responsible for handling personnel matters under their agreement with the sheriff’s office and that those duties lie solely with the sheriff’s office.

“As the litigation progresses and more information becomes public, I believe it will demonstrate clearly that the allegations of wrongdoing (by the county and sheriff) are absolutely without merit,” Marchesi said.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm


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