Epsom firefighter has sued before

Monitor staff
Friday, July 21, 2017

An Epsom firefighter pursuing the town for retaliation has sued a municipality before.

Twenty years before he filed a lawsuit against Epsom, accusing town officials of retaliating against him for reporting sexual harassment, Richard Bilodeau sued Allenstown.

In that suit, filed in 1995, Bilodeau claimed he was slandered by Allenstown fire rescue personnel, who had written to his employer at the time, the Tri-Town Volunteer Emergency Ambulance Service in Pembroke, to criticize his performance at a scene. 

Tri-Town investigated the incident and decided not to fire or discipline Bilodeau, according to court documents. He filed suit soon thereafter, saying the complaints had damaged his reputation in the community.

Allenstown, for their part, argued that whether or not the complaints had been true, criticism was par for the course in a public workplace.

“Employees who deal with the public and outside agencies have complaints made to their employers about their performance. This is a reality of the American workplace,” an attorney for Allenstown wrote in a motion to dismiss the case.

The 1995 case was quickly settled out of court, and it’s unclear whether Bilodeau received any money. Allenstown officials said the case was too old to know where to look for record of payment.

In the ongoing case, filed in 2015, Bilodeau alleged that town officials worked together to retaliate against him after he complained about sexual harassment from a police officer, which he said peaked in late 2010. Both Bilodeau and the officer, Brian Michael, who was named as a defendant in the suit, are still employed by Epsom.

A judge dismissed all claims against the police officer, ruling that if retaliation had occured, there wasn’t enough to hold the police officer responsible. The officer had maintained that the alleged harassment was never more than well-intentioned horseplay.

The town is fighting the remaining claims, and the case is scheduled for trial in November. 

Andrew Livernois, an attorney representing Epsom, said the town might bring up the prior suit in its defense.

“That very well may be an issue that we raise,” he said.

He noted that Bilodeau had been asked if he’d ever been in a lawsuit while being deposed for the Epsom suit. 

“Not to my knowledge,” Bilodeau answered, according to court documents.

Rules limit how much prior litigation can be brought up in a new suit, Livernois said. 

“To the extent that we can use that to impeach his credibility, we will,” he said.

Bilodeau’s attorney, Leslie Johnson, did not return a phone call and email seeking comment.

(Lola Duffort can be reached at 369-3321 or lduffort@cmonitor.com.)