BANGOR — A parking enforcement officer who lost his 24-year city job in August after an altercation with a Bangor resident will be at work Monday, performing new duties for the roughly 16 months he needs to qualify for state retirement benefits.
Thomas Farrar can neither hear nor speak, but he had no trouble communicating his happiness Thursday afternoon to media gathered at the Main Street office of attorney Peter Baldacci.
Farrar’s smile said it all, but the 51-year-old man also was willing to take pen in hand to answer questions about his new job, which will comprise maintenance duties at the Bangor Police Department and courier work at City Hall. He will make the same wages as in his old job, between $20,000 and $25,000 a year, plus benefits.
How does he feel about getting back to work?
“Police Dept Good
“Chief Don Winslow Thank You
“City Hall Good Thank You,” he wrote. In both instances, Farrar underlined the word “good.”
The once-and-future city employee didn’t immediately understand a question about assault charges that have been brought against him over the incident involving Bangor resident David Fitzpatrick, who works in the downtown area.
The trial, which began in November in 3rd District Court, is in recess until February so that a transcript of Fitzpatrick’s testimony could be made available for Farrar to read and review with his attorney.
Fitzpatrick claims that Farrar pushed him four times during a disagreement over Fitzpatrick’s having moved his car from one side of the street to the other to avoid getting a parking ticket.
Baldacci said Thursday that Farrar had waved his hand in a circle to indicate the car had to go around the block before reparking in the same zone, and otherwise tried to get Fitzpatrick to move the argument out of the street, a place where Farrar is nervous because he can’t hear traffic.
During the press conference, Baldacci tried to interpret the assault question to Farrar by raising his hands in a pushing position.
Farrar shook his head no, and waved his hands to indicate that what Baldacci had motioned wasn’t correct. Farrar then held his hand out to the side as if putting it behind someone’s back to guide him.
What happened and whether it meets the definition of “offensive contact” — an assault category in Maine and some other states — will be decided in court.
The trial has nothing to do with Farrar’s employment situation, Penoboscot County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy said Thursday.
“It’s very important to note that,” Almy said. “The outcome of the trial is not going to affect Mr. Farrar’s employment status. Those two decisions should be separate. Our function is to present this case and let a judge” decide the verdict.
Fitzpatrick did not receive a parking ticket during the incident, which occurred July 20 on Central Street. Baldacci said that Fitzpatrick proceeded from there to the post office and then to the library, where he looked up city parking ordinances. It was 1 1/2 hours before the man complained to the Police Department, he said.
Fitzpatrick could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.
Baldacci didn’t deny that there had been contact between Farrar and Fitzpatrick.
“I’m saying that hands-on contact is part of his communication” as a person who cannot hear or speak, the attorney said, adding that a specialist made the same kind of comment during Farrar’s unemployment hearing.
In July, Farrar was suspended with pay until his Aug. 7 disciplinary hearing, Baldacci said. The city asked the employee then if he wanted someone with him at the hearing, Baldacci related, but he said that by that point, Farrar — who had been taking medication for stress — just wasn’t fighting for himself. Baldacci said the city recommended that Farrar resign in order to avoid being fired outright, and he did resign.
Farrar lost his initial application for unemployment benefits, but prevailed upon review.
The city followed its policy of opposing benefits for a fired employee, City Manager Edward Barrett said Thursday, but decided not to appeal when Farrar was awarded benefits for 26 weeks. There was no other position the city could have put him in at the time, Barrett said.
Thursday’s resolution has been in the works for some months, the city manager said.
“This is a reasonable solution to the situation, given Mr. Farrar’s personal situation and prior employment with the city,” Barrett said. “It will allow him to get the necessary time for retirement and provide valuable service to the city.”
“We didn’t want to see this as a make-work thing,” Baldacci emphasized.
Farrar’s maintenance work at the Police Department will certainly be welcome. Former Police Chief Randy Harriman had asked for another position during the last budget process, and the issue has come up at other times, as well.
Farrar’s courier work will relieve employees in several departments who have had to pause in their duties to deliver documents and other items to City Hall, to other departments around the city, or to city councilors.
Farrar will definitely retire when he has reached his 25 years, and the city then will evaluate whether to keep the position or part of it. As departments become more “automated” through the use of computers, Barrett said, there will be less need for courier service a few years from now.
The city manager said he was pleased that the job “will allow Tom to keep working with some people he already knows” at the Police Department. Deputy Chief Bob Welch will be Farrar’s supervisor, and Farrar also will work with the head of maintenance. Barrett said he didn’t know yet who would be the man’s supervisor at City Hall.
The money for Farrar’s job through June — the end of the current fiscal year — may come from contingency funds, Barrett said, but those details have yet to be worked out with the City Council.
“Tom was not interested in suing the city,” Baldacci emphasized. “He wanted to work. When I wrote `JOB’ on a piece of paper and underlined it, it meant the whole world to him.”