South Thomaston selectmen have agreed to a $95,000 settlement with former Fire Chief Wayne Brown in his civil rights lawsuit against the town.

The town continues to deny Brown’s allegations, however, and said the settlement was a compromise of a disputed claim. Of the settlement, $80,000 will go to Brown’s attorneys – Johnson & Webbert, LLP of Augusta – and $15,000 will go to Brown.

The town’s share of the total settlement is $8,500, which includes a $2,500 deductible from its insurance policy. The deductible was paid in 1998 and the remaining $6,000 was paid out on March 10, 2010.

The settlement includes a confidentiality agreement but the information was released upon a formal Freedom of Access request filed by VillageSoup.

The lawsuit was originally filed in January 2008 in Knox County Superior Court by Brown against the town and the three selectmen, both in their official capacities and as individuals. The case was moved to the federal court system in August 2009 at the request of the town officials.

Brown served on the town’s volunteer fire department for 42 years and was its chief for 16 years. He claimed he was harassed to the point that he resigned. The selectmen have denied the claim since the suit was filed.

Central to the issue is Brown’s claim that selectmen reached an agreement in 2002 with a firefighter who had significant medical restrictions that would allow that firefighter to continue working with the department and allow him to self-limit his duties. The lawsuit further claims that in June 2003, Health Connections Occupational Health added additional restrictions.

Brown said he concluded that the firefighter, who has not been named, could not perform the duties of a fire police officer without endangering the safety of other firefighters. In late 2005, Brown claimed he was directed by selectmen to employ that firefighter as a fire police officer. Brown said he opposed the directive in writing in November 2005. The selectmen in turn, he claimed, sent a written notice to the chief threatening to fire him because of his opposition.

Selectmen developed amendments to the town’s fire department ordinance in early 2006 to remove the authority of the chief to employ and remove firefighters. The amendments were adopted by voters at the annual town meeting in March.

On April 14, 2006, Brown said selectmen threatened to take legal action against him. Brown submitted his resignation on April 18, effective May 1.

Brown filed in June 2006 a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission against the town. The commission dismissed that case in December 2007 after one of its investigators found there were no reasonable grounds to conclude Brown was the victim of illegal discrimination.

The former chief then filed his lawsuit in state Superior Court. Selectmen responded with a letter to the editor in local newspapers that stated that Brown’s abrupt resignation left the town in a potentially dangerous and precarious position and that he failed to respond to two fire calls on April 30.

Brown said the false claims were made in retaliation for his lawsuit. He said that he had given the town two weeks notice and that on April 30, his pager did not go off within the walls of the state prison where he works.

The former chief had asked the court to reinstate him as chief, award him compensatory damages, and award him punitive damages against the three selectmen — John Spear, Jeffrey Northgraves and Penelope Alley.

In the town’s response filed in the court, the defendants argued that Brown’s claims were frivolous and were brought in bad faith. The town further asked the court to prevent the former chief from publicly disclosing confidential medical information about the firefighter who was at the center of the dispute.

Selectmen have pointed out that they reappointed Brown to his position a week before he resigned. They said they did not threaten legal action against him but he had been advised that taking the oath of office was a serious obligation.