April 05, 2020

Former chief cleared as defendant in lawsuit

ROCKLAND – A former police chief has been dropped as a defendant in a federal lawsuit against the city by a former department employee who alleges the city retaliated against him for his reporting of workplace discrimination.

All claims against former Police Chief Alfred Ockenfels in the pending lawsuit were dismissed Thursday by a federal judge.

Ockenfels, who retired as police chief in April 2005, then served six months in Iraq as a police adviser and trainer, is running for Knox County sheriff in the Nov. 7 election.

In the claim against the city, former police Lt. William Donnelly alleges the city retaliated against him for his reporting of workplace discrimination and that it breached a settlement agreement tied to an earlier lawsuit that was dismissed.

While Ockenfels was dismissed as a defendant, the city and City Manager Tom Hall were not dismissed from all claims.

“I’m a little befuddled myself,” the city’s attorney, Edward Benjamin of Portland, said Monday, referring to Hall’s status in the case.

Because much of the case involves personnel issues and personnel files that are confidential, Benjamin said, it is hard to understand what facts the judge finds in dispute.

“[An] issue for the judge will be Hall’s motivation,” Benjamin said. “It was not retaliatory in nature.”

Benjamin anticipates a January trial in federal court.

The lawsuit is expected to go to trial, but a court date has not been set.

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