ANDOVER — Former Youth Services Director Bill Fahey is suing Andover and Town Manager Andrew Flanagan after being fired last month.
According to a lawsuit filed Thursday in Essex County Superior Court by attorney Daniel Murphy of Murphy Law Group, Fahey alleges Flanagan had a personal vendetta against him and that the tension between them resulted in his unwarranted termination May 10 after an investigation and its ensuing report.
“Flanagan is using the town commissioned report as a sword against Fahey by insinuating that it supports the original accusations of Fahey engaging in improper sexual conduct with a former AYS (Andover Youth Services) employee and as a shield by refusing to release the report," Murphy wrote in the lawsuit.
To date, Flanagan has maintained Fahey was fired for "misconduct," but never characterized its nature.
Fahey is suing for damages related to lost wages and benefits, emotional distress and loss of reputation, the lawsuit states. A separate document, the civil action document sheet, estimates damages of up to $10 million.
The lawsuit questions the credibility of the person whose complaint to the Police Department started the investigation into Fahey. It states the person was a minor when the "inappropriate sexual conduct" is alleged to have taken place, and was also an employee of the town.
In a letter from the town to Fahey that was included with the lawsuit, the reason he was originally suspended was that the town received "credible information that you may have engaged in improper conduct with a minor."
Residents rallied behind Fahey after he was fired. In reaction, Human Resources Director Jessica Porter wrote a letter to the Select Board explaining how the "complicated and difficult decision" was made.
"The path to making this decision was difficult, and one that no one manager or human resources professional ever desires to make," she wrote. "It was not a decision made lightly, or without discussion and much contemplation."
The complaint made by the unnamed person was referred to the office of Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blogett in January. They investigated and found no criminal conduct, and then referred the complaint back to the town.
"Allegations regarding Mr. Fahey were referred to this office by Andover Police," wrote Carrie Kimball, spokesperson for the Essex County District's Attorney's Office, in a statement. "We conducted an investigation with the Massachusetts State Police and determined that the allegations did not rise to the level of criminal conduct. The matter was referred to the Town of Andover."
The town hired Regina Ryan of Discrimination and Harassment Solutions to conduct a local investigation. Taxpayer's cost for her work was $13,425. The resulting report, which was nearly 100% redacted by the town when released to The Eagle-Tribune last week, was what prompted Fahey's termination, according to Flanagan.
The vast majority of the lawsuit tells a story of how Fahey believes he has been targeted since Flanagan became town manager in 2015, because, Fahey says, Flanagan planned on "taking over the Cormier Youth Center."
"Fahey alleges that over the past five and a half years, Flanagan targeted Fahey for termination," the lawsuit states. "Further, Fahey alleges that Flanagan had been making knowingly, and with malice, false statements that wrongfully insinuate to the public that Fahey was being investigated for and ultimately terminated because of criminal behavior involving a minor."
However, when previously asked about the nature of Fahey's misconduct, Flanagan was never forthcoming.
Concerning Fahey's lawsuit, Flanagan said Friday, "While the town does not comment on pending litigation, we plan to vigorously defend the lawsuit and respond to the complaint accordingly."
The Eagle-Tribune has attempted to acquire the report on the investigation through a public records request, but when it was received last week, all text about the investigation was blacked out.
Flanagan cited a nondisclosure agreement with Fahey as the reason for the redactions.
Meanwhile, Fahey has asked for the investigation and his response to its findings to be released — even going so far as to post a video on social media making his appeal. Fahey's lawyer said that they intend to get his client released from the non-disclosure agreement so he can make his case publicly.
"Names can be protected," Murphy said. "We don't have any desire to invade anyone's personal space."
The Eagle-Tribune's records request for the report on the investigation has been appealed to the Massachusetts Secretary of State.