MICHAEL A. LEE
TOWN OF DENMARK
Argued: February 6, 2019
Loranger, Esq. (orally), and Danielle Quinlan, Esq., Old
Orchard Beach, for appellant Michael A. Lee
J. Smith, Esq. (orally), and Timothy J. O'Brien, Esq.,
Libby O'Brien Kingsley & Champion, LLC, Kennebunk,
for appellee Town of Denmark
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and
Michael A. Lee appeals from a summary judgment entered by the
Superior Court (Oxford County, Stokes, /.) in favor
of his employer, the Town of Denmark, on Lee's claim that
the Town violated Maine's Whistleblowers' Protection
Act (WPA), 26 M.R.S. §§ 831-40 (2018),
suspending Lee after he engaged in WPA "protected
activity." Lee argues that the court erred as a matter
of law in concluding that Lee did not engage in protected
activity when he informed the Town that it had breached his
employment contract and in so doing had violated Maine
statutes and the Town's charter. We affirm the judgment.
The pertinent facts in this case are not complicated and are
undisputed. We draw the facts from the parties'
statements of material facts, all of which are supported by
references to the evidentiary record, viewing them in the
light most favorable to Lee as the nonprevailing party.
See Remmes v. Mark Travel Corp., 2015 ME 63, ¶
3, 116 A.3d 466.
From 2003 to 2014, Lee worked under a written employment
contract with the Town to serve as a part-time Code
Enforcement Officer (CEO). The contract provided that Lee was
to "perform all duties as specified by the Law and
ordinance and to perform such other proper duties
... as assigned by the Board of Selectmen." (Emphasis
In September 2014, the Town's newly hired Town Manager
directed Lee to report directly to him as the Town Manager,
rather than to the Board.Lee complained to the Town Manager and
the Board that the directive was "illegal and a
violation" of Lee's employment contract with the
Town because he interpreted the contract to require that he
report to the Board, not the Town Manager. Lee also asserted
that the CEO position was controlled by the laws of the State
of Maine. See 30-A M.R.S. §§ 2601, 2601-A,
In April 2015, the Board of Selectmen approved a new job
description for the CEO position, which was offered to Lee.
Lee objected to the new job description, stating that it
breached his contract and "to change the CEO [j]ob
description, [the Town] would need to form a Charter
Commission and then have a public meeting to call a special
In May 2015, the Town Manager placed Lee on paid
administrative leave, later changing it to leave without pay
and recommending Lee's termination, pending an
investigation into whether Lee had falsified work hours.
Shortly thereafter, the Town Manager resigned, and the
Denmark Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to rescind
Lee's suspension upon finding that he had not falsified
Lee filed a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission
and, after receiving a right-to-sue letter, see 5
M.R.S. § 4612(6) (2018), he filed a complaint against
the Town in the Superior Court (Oxford County) for a
violation of the Maine WPA, 26 M.R.S. §§ 831-40.
The Town moved for summary judgment pursuant to M.R. Civ. P.
56, and the court granted the Town's motion, concluding
that Lee had not engaged in WPA-protected activity, a
necessary element to succeed in a WPA claim. See 26
M.R.S. § 833(1)(A) (2018). Lee timely filed a notice of
appeal. M.R. App. P. 2B(c)(1).
Because the material facts are not in dispute, we review the
court's interpretation of the WPA de novo. See
Remmes, 2015 ME 63, ¶ 19, 116 A.3d 466. To satisfy
the first element of a WPA claim, the record must establish
that Lee reported to his employer what he had reasonable
cause to believe was his employer's unlawful
activity. See Galouch v. Dep't of Prof 1
& Fin. Regulation, 2015 ME 44, ¶ 12, 114 A.3d
988. "The reasonable cause requirement is met only when
the employee presents evidence showing she had a subjective
belief" that the employer engaged in illegal activity
and the "belief was objectively reasonable in
that a reasonable person might have believed" illegal
activity occurred. Stewart-Dore v. Webber Hosp.
Ass'n, 2011 ME 26, ¶ 11, 13 A.3d 773 (quotation
Notwithstanding the absence of explicit language in the
contract regarding an alleged "reporting"
requirement,  Lee argues that the Town breached his
employment contract by requiring him to report to the Town
Manager as opposed to the Board and by suggesting that a new
employment contract would be imposed to clarify his reporting
responsibilities, and that "he reasonably believed"
these alleged breaches were illegal. He argues, in essence,
that three sections of statute-30-A M.R.S. §§2601,
2601-A, 4451-and the CEO job description, formed by the