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Macomber v. Maine State Employees Association

Superior Court of Maine, Kennebec

October 1, 2019

JEFFREY L. MACOMBER Petitioner,
v.
MAINE STATE EMPLOYEES ASSOCIATION, SEIU LOCAL 1989 Respondent.

          Plaintiff's Attorney Eugene M. Sullivan, Esq.

          Defendant's Attorney Thomas Feeley, Esq.

          ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR 80C REVIEW

         Before the court is petitioner Jeffrey Macomber's 80C petition for review of the Executive Director of the Maine Labor Relation Board's dismissal of Macomber's Prohibited Practice Complaint. Petitioner is represented by Attorney Eugene Sullivan. Respondent Maine State Employees Union is represented by Attorney Thomas Feeley. Oral argument was held on August 6, 2019. For the following reasons, the 80C petition is denied.

         Background

         On May 24, 2018, Macomber filed a prohibited practice complaint with the Maine Labor Relations Board ("MLRB"). (R. 1.) The complaint sought review of the Maine State Employee's Association's (the "Union's") handling of a grievance Macomber filed which ended with an arbitration decision adverse to Macomber. (R. 1-3.) On June 14, 2018, the Executive Director of the MLRB, Marc Ayotte, sent Macomber a notice of insufficiencies stating that Macomber's complaint failed to allege facts which would support a finding that the Union violated its duty of fair representation while handling Macomber's grievance arbitration. (R. 124.) The Letter gave Macomber fifteen days to file an amended complaint. (R. 124.)

         On June 28, 2018, Macomber filed an amended complaint. (R. 130-135.) On July 12, 2018, the Executive Director once again found that Macomber's amended complaint did not allege facts which would support a finding that the Union violated its duty of fair representation. (R. 136-138.) In light of this finding, the Executive Director dismissed Macomber's prohibited practice complaint.[1] (R. 138.) On July 25, 2018, Macomber filed an appeal of the dismissal with the Labor Relation's Board. (R. 139-142.) On September 28, 2018, the Board affirmed the Executive Director's dismissal. (R. 143-151.)

         On October 15, 2018, Macomber timely filed this 80C petition for review of final agency action.

         Standard of Review

         The Court reviews the Board's decision for an abuse of discretion, error of law, or findings not supported by the evidence. Langley v. Me. State Emples. Ass'n, SEW Local 1989, 2002 ME 32, ¶ 8, 791 A.2d 100. As the party seeking to vacate the Board's decision, Macomber bears the burden of persuasion. See Kelley v. Me. Pub. Emps. Ret. Sys., 2009 ME 27, 16, 967 A.2d 676.

         Discussion

         The Law Court has described the duty of fair representation which the MSEA owes its members as follows:

The MSEA has a statutory duty to represent employees fairly in its enforcement of the collective bargaining agreement. To constitute a breach of the duty of fair representation, the union's conduct toward its members must be arbitrary, discriminatory or in bad faith. Thus, the union may not ignore a meritorious grievance or process it in a perfunctory manner. Nevertheless, a wide range of reasonableness must be allowed and mere negligence, poor judgment or ineptitude are insufficient to establish a breach of the duty of fair representation.

Lundrigan v. Me. Labor Relations Bd., 482 A.2d 834, 836 (Me. 1984) (citations and quotations omitted); see also Brown v. Me. State Emples. Ass`n, 1997 ME 24, ¶ 7, 690 A.2d 956. A union's conduct is arbitrary if "in light of the factual and legal landscape at the time of the union's actions, the union's behavior was so far outside a wide range of reasonableness as to be irrational." Trask v. FOP, 2018 ME 130, ¶ 4, 194 A.3d 46 (quotation omitted).

         In this case, Macomber argues that the Board erred in its application of the law. (Pet'r Br. at 1.) The court therefore reviews the Board's decision for an error of law. See Lundrigan, 482 A.2d at 836. However, the Board's decision is accorded considerable deference. Id.; Langley,2002 ME 32, ¶ 8, 791 ...


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