the second time, Mary Walsh and her attorney A.J. Greif proved that
former Millinocket town councilor Matthew A. Polstein used his
position to have her fired after he learned that Mary had contacted
the state about safety concerns with his state-subsidized grooming of
told the jury in his closing arguments that Matt Polstein "was born
on third base and tells people that he hit a triple," pointing out
that Polstein was not a "self-made man" as he had stated earlier
in the day, but that his parents had paid for his college education
as well as his start-up costs for his whitewater rafting business.
also elicited from Polstein that, although he had testified that he
was in college for 3 1/2 years, he had actually inflated that from 2 1/2
years. The attorney pointed out to the jury that Polstein had a habit
of making himself look good at the expense of the truth.
who was metaphorically born in the dugout, hit a home run, despite
the fact that the third-baseman tried to trip her as she rounded the
the administrator of the state grants which Polstein was given for
trail grooming, testified that she had repeatedly talked to him
about problems with the grooming. She spoke to the town manager and
eventually went to Scott Ramsey, the state trails administrator after
the safety hazards went unaddressed.
late February, 2005, Walsh and three friends had lunch in a local
restaurant where she discussed her dilemma, after which Polstein,
sent her an email suggesting that she "be careful" about having
political discussions in public, specifying the restaurant in which
she had eaten that afternoon and warning that "the walls have
ears." Mary indicated at the time that she considered the email a "veiled threat" against her job and herself.
days later, in early March 2005, Walsh and her friends were leaving
the same restaurant after lunch when Polstein sped into the parking
lot, pinning Walsh's car in and preventing her from leaving. He then
loudly berated her in the parking lot, scaring her friends and
testified that he was not aware of Walsh's communication with Ramsey
until after the vote, but later contradicted himself when he admitted
that he was aware of the complaint before the second restaurant
incident, which was nearly three months before the June 2005 vote.
testified that he was not angry at Mary, despite the fact that he
also testified that he thought her complaint was "uncalled for,"
"bogus," "politically motivated," and that she was trying to
"undermine [Polstein's] credibility." Attorney Greif made clear
the fact that the two statements did not line up with the truth.
Meeting and Firing
the June 23, 2005 Millinocket town council meeting, after a
near-record turnout of citizens speaking on the issue, the council,
led by Councilor Polstein, voted to adopt a tri-town Recreation
Department consolidation proposal which left Walsh jobless.
that meeting, twelve citizens spoke out against the proposed
consolidation, citing Mary's relationship with the children of
Millinocket, the fact that she did a good job, and the idea that by
passing the motion, the Council would be creating yet another jobless
person in the town of Millinocket. One person, Matt Polstein's spouse
Wendy Polstein, did not speak out against the measure, but did not
speak out in favor of it either. She simply stated that she was
confused and wanted clarification.
two employees of the newly-formed tri-town department were then given
raises, with Frank Clukey getting an $11,000 raise and Jody Nelson
getting an approximate $6,000 raise, leading to questions in court
about how an arrangement which was touted as "money-saving" was
actually one where an amount nearly equalling Mary's salary was then
spent. Adding to that question was the fact that Walsh had saved
between $3,000 and $5,000 a year while she was the director and the
fact that the new arrangement would cost an additional $5,000 a year
more than it was before the deal was consummated.
attorney asserted that Matt Polstein should have recused himself from
the June 23 vote due to a conflict which was evident by the anger
which he continued to show toward her for notifying the state and,
according to Polstein, associating with people he did not like.
Polstein recused himself, the consolidation proposal would have died
and Mary would have maintained her job.
Councilors Paul and Nelson
Millinocket Town Councilor Wally Paul, who voted for the
consolidation, was unable to remember much and could not identify the
managers report on the consolidation as being that report. He
eventually granted that that same report indicated that the
consolidation would result in a net loss of town money rather than a
Millinocket Town Councilor David Nelson was flown to Maine from
Wisconsin at the expense of the defendants and testified that he was
generally in favor of consolidation in whatever form it was offered.
Attorney Greif asked about Nelson's votes regarding solid waste
consolidation and the police department consolidation, and the former
councilor seemed surprised to learn that he had voted against both.
He seemed even more surprised to learn that the only consolidation
vote he had ever affirmed was the Recreation Department one.
were two questions that the 9-member jury had to rule on.
first was whether the town of Millinocket, and Matt Polstein
specifically, fired her in violation of the Maine whistle-blowers
laws. The jury voted 7 to 2 that she did indeed qualify as a
whistle-blower in this instance, in that she had reported a safety
issue to the state and that but for that act, she would not have lost
second was conditional: If the answer to the first question is yes,
how much money in damages should she be awarded. The jury voted 8 to
1 to award her damages of $30,000.
the judge will use a formula to assess how much she had lost in wages
and other costs since the inappropriate firing in 2005.
how she felt about the verdict, Mary said, "It's a really good
feeling when the truth finally does prevail and the bullies don't
Polstein was not available for comment, and Town Manager Eugene
Conlogue declined to comment inasmuch as the matter is still under
Mary Walsh Wins...Again
Mary Walsh Wins Suit Against the Town
And a Little Child Shall Lead Them
Councilor Berates Citizen During Council Meeting