Stockbridge fires Scott Muir, despite acquittal in sex assault case
STOCKBRIDGE -- The Select Board has voted unanimously to terminate Scott M. Muir from his town government positions as facilities manager and emergency services director, effective next Tuesday.
Muir had been acquitted by a Berkshire Superior Court jury on Jan. 28 of all 19 charges that he sexually assaulted five young female students between the ages of 8 and 10 while employed by the Berkshire Hills School District as a counselor at the former Stockbridge Plain School and the Muddy Brook Elementary School in Great Barrington.
The town's decision, disclosed to The Eagle by Select Board Chairman Stephen Shatz on Wednesday afternoon, followed the board's closed-door meeting on Tuesday to discuss personnel matters.
While declining to discuss the reasons for terminating Muir, Shatz said, "We believe we were well within our rights to do so."
Muir's attorney, William A. Rota of Pittsfield, said he is exploring a possible lawsuit against the town on behalf of his client.
Rota, stating that Muir's employment was terminated "despite his four and a half years of unblemished service to the town," argued that the Selectmen "disregarded the fact that Scott was found not guilty of all criminal charges brought against him."
"Scott intends to pursue all legal remedies available to him in the hope that he can correct this injustice and clear his good name," Rota added.
Rota described the hearing before the Select Board in executive session that also included Muir and Town Counsel J. Raymond Miyares.
"My client had the opportunity to present his case," Rota told The Eagle.
The attorney explained that the town's position, stated during the hearing, is that Muir is an "at-will employee" who can be terminated for no reason.
According to Rota, "they also said they were terminating him with cause because of concerns the community might have with him in the building."
Asked why he thought the town ended Muir's employment for two different legal justifications -- with cause and without cause -- Rota said: "I believe they are anticipating a lawsuit."
Muir had been suspended by the town when the allegations against him were brought forward in May 2012. "The town reinstated him after he was acquitted," said Rota, "and then placed him on administrative leave with pay."
Miyares, the town counsel, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Rota had stated last month that Muir is "entitled to his job and he wants things there to go back to the way they were before he was arrested."
The attorney cited a state law provision that if a municipal employee is found not guilty of criminal charges, his suspension will be removed and he is entitled to back pay and benefits.
Last month, the Select Board approved $83,600 in back pay and benefits to Muir covering the period from May 19, 2012, to Feb. 6 of this year. An additional payment covering the period between his acquittal and the effective date of his termination next Tuesday will be made, Shatz said.
Muir, 39, of Church Street, had been suspended indefinitely by the town following his arrest and arraignment on the allegations. He had been employed by the Berkshire Hills Regional School District as a student center support coordinator between 2002 and 2007.
Following Muir's acquittal, a candlelight vigil was held in Stockbridge on behalf of the five students who were allegedly assaulted. More than 70 men and women attended. A Facebook page in support of the students, titled "We Believe You," attracted more than 650 "likes."
Local activist Gabrielle Senza circulated a petition requesting that the town not restore Muir to his former jobs. She said the document had been signed by more than 380 people. Senza could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.
To contact Clarence Fanto:
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On Twitter: @BE_cfanto