PARIS — Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant resigned from his position Wednesday at around 4:30 p.m. amid accusations of sexual misconduct involving subordinate employees.
The sheriff submitted a one-page letter of resignation to the Oxford County Commission and the office of Gov. Paul LePage effective immediately.
According to Gallant’s attorney, Jim Martemucci of Portland, after “lots of consideration, lots of discussion with his family and consulting with me, he’s decided it’s best for all concerned that he resign.”
Chief Deputy Hart Daley has been named acting sheriff and will remain in that post until LePage appoints an interim sheriff, Oxford County Commissioner David Duguay said.
On Nov. 21, Gallant admitted to a television station that he had sent a sexually explicit cellphone photo, taken at the sheriff’s office while he was in uniform, to a woman whom he has refused to identify.
The same day he stepped down from his position as head of the Maine Sheriffs’ Association, saying in a prepared statement that, by sending the photo, “I bring discredit to myself, to my uniform, my badge and the Maine Sheriffs’ Association.”
“The appropriate thing for me to do is not remain in a leadership position with the association and to step down,” he said.
The next day, the sheriff acknowledged to Oxford County commissioners that he’d sent the photo, which he described as an “adult thing that happened two years ago.”
At the time, the sheriff was under investigation by the Oxford County Commission after reports of two separate complaints of misconduct were made to county officials.
In one complaint, Gallant is alleged to have sent multiple sexually explicit photographs of himself to a male deputy’s girlfriend and asked that Gallant, the deputy and the woman have sex together. When the deputy rebuffed the offer, Gallant threatened his job, according to Ray Cote, the business agent for Teamsters Local 340, which represents the officers of the sheriff’s department.
In the second, Gallant is alleged to have typed a message on a cellphone indicating he wanted to perform oral sex on a male employee, and then showed the person what he had typed, Cote said.
Gallant has steadfastly denied — through his attorney — that he sexually harassed any employee of the sheriff’s department or threatened anyone with termination in connection with solicitation for sex.
First elected in 2006, Gallant, who is in his late 60s, is in his third four-year term as Oxford County sheriff and had served as president of the Sheriffs’ Association since January.
Before he was elected sheriff, Gallant served as chief of the Wilton Police Department for a year and prior to that worked for the Rumford Police Department.
According to Martemucci, Gallant has “been honored to be the sheriff, to serve Oxford County, and to have worked with law enforcement in other communities” during his career.
Cote said last week that he brought the accusations of misconduct to the commission in early November and then “became so frustrated with the lack of action and lack of cooperation on this issue that I went to the media” the week of Nov. 20.
“I was compelled to go public with what I knew, which is what I did,” he said.
On Tuesday, following the close of the commission’s three-week investigation, commissioners voted unanimously to forward a complaint to LePage asking that the governor use his constitutional power to remove Gallant from office.
That process would have included a public hearing at which the accusers and Gallant would have each been given an opportunity to speak, and the governor would then have had to decide whether proof existed that the sheriff had not faithfully or efficiently performed his duties, which would be grounds for removal.
According to the commissioners’ complaint, their investigation concluded that Gallant, “while in uniform and in his office, sent a photograph to a female employee of another law enforcement agency in which his genitals were exposed.”
Gallant also sent “multiple text messages to a subordinate officer and his female companion containing other indecent photographs of himself, the solicitation of sex acts, and the solicitation of nude pictures from both of them,” according to the complaint.
Commissioners also claim Gallant sent “lewd text messages to subordinate employees that contained photographs of himself, and requested or suggested images of the employees in indecent poses.”
“The sheriff tolerated, engaged in and fostered inappropriate sexual conduct within the department and workplace in violation of law and county policy on sexual harassment, all of which it was the sworn duty of the sheriff to uphold and enforce,” according to the complaint.
The complaint requests that LePage “remove the sheriff from office and appoint another sheriff in that office for the remainder of his term.”
The term expires in 2018.
According to Duguay, the process to appoint an interim sheriff to fulfill the term is complex, and begins with the Oxford County Democrats scheduling a caucus to select at least one nominee, “but I believe the governor insists on two or three names to be submitted.”
All nominees must come from the Democratic party because Gallant won the sheriff’s seat as a Democrat and there is a mandate to maintain the consistency of that party in office, matching voters’ will.
Duguay said it’s his understanding that “the governor doesn’t necessarily need to accept any of the names that the Oxford County Democrats submit; he can put anyone in that slot. But it has to be a Democrat.”
John Rogers, director of the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, said Wednesday he had not received any complaint or report on the sheriff that would prompt the decertification process by his agency.
The Maine Criminal Justice Academy is the entity that issues and manages certification for all law enforcement officers in Maine, and may decertify officers based on very limited criteria, including the commission of a felony crime.
Other reasons for decertification include not completing mandatory training, lying on an academy form to obtain certification, having an inappropriate sexual relationship with the victim of a domestic violence in which the officer is involved, according to Maine law.
The academy could also consider decertification if an officer engages in “conduct that violates the standards established by the board” and which “involves a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable and prudent certificate holder would observe in the same or similar situation.”
While aware of Tuesday’s action of the Oxford County Commission seeking Gallant’s removal, Rogers said that unless or until the actions rise to the level of a criminal matter “we really don’t get involved in terms of certification.”
If the academy were to receive a complaint that falls within its jurisdiction, a complaint review committee would convene an investigation that may include a public hearing on the facts before taking any action, which could include a warning, censure, suspension or decertification.