Paris Police Chief fights license suspension

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AUGUSTA — Almost four months after his arrest for allegedly Operating Under the Influence, the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) issued a driver’s license suspension notice for Paris Police Chief Michael Madden. However, he will be able to continue to drive at least until an administrative hearing is held, which his lawyer requested on Tuesday.

Paris Police Chief Michael Madden
Paris Police Chief Michael Madden

The Advertiser Democrat discovered last month that arresting officer Sgt. Andrew Feeney of the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department did not send the required paperwork into the Secretary of State’s Office that would suspend Madden’s license. Chief Deputy Naldo Gagnon said in February that he instructed Feeney to send in the paperwork and that there would be disciplinary action if he breached protocol again.

Robert O’Connell, director of legal affairs, adjudications and hearings for the BMV, said his office received the suspension paperwork, statement of probable cause and blood alcohol test result from Feeney on Feb. 18. The 150-day suspension notice for Madden’s license — which is typical for a first OUI offense and would have become effective on Monday, March 23 — was printed by a computer on Sunday. On Tuesday, O’Connell received a request for an administrative hearing from Madden’s Portland-based attorney, Matt Nichols.

The request for an administrative hearing has stayed Madden’s driver’s license suspension in accordance with Maine law, O’Connell said. The hearing will determine if Madden will retain full driving privileges during the ongoing court proceedings for the OUI charge. O’Connell previously said issues that can be explored during the hearing include whether or not the officer had probable cause to pull the driver over and whether or not the driver’s blood alcohol content was at the legal limit of 0.8 or higher.

Feeney pulled over 50-year-old Madden of Harrison on Harrison Road in Naples shortly after midnight on Nov. 21, 2014, after police allege Madden was driving erratically in his personal vehicle.

Freedom of Access Act requests filed by the Advertiser Democrat with the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department and Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office for the police report and test results have been denied. The denial letters state that the requested police records are confidential under Maine statute and since the charge is still pending and Madden hasn’t been convicted, the Criminal History and Records Information Act trumps the Freedom of Access Act.

Madden has remained on active duty as Paris police chief since the OUI charge and took a few days vacation shortly after the November incident. Town Manager Amy Bernard said Tuesday that Madden’s primary role in the department is administrative.

“He’s never been out patrolling,” she said. “When he’s needed for back up, he will back up but that’s not his primary job.”

Bernard did say that having a driver’s license is a job requirement for the chief of police and declined to comment on whether or not Madden would continue to work for the town if his license is suspended.

“I can’t discuss that until it happens,” she said.

Bernard — who’s scheduled to go on maternity leave for 12 weeks in May — said it hasn’t been discussed yet if she would recommend Madden or someone else to fill in as interim town manager and road commissioner in her absence. She will make a recommendation to the Board of Selectmen, which has to approve the interim town manager and highway commissioner. She said the discussion will happen publicly and likely take place at the end of April.

According to O’Connell, the earliest the administrative hearing would be scheduled — which will most likely be held in Portland — is three weeks, but suspects it could be closer to four weeks. With first OUI offenses, if a license is suspended after an administrative hearing, he said the driver can apply for a work license that would allow him or her to drive to and from work, along with other destinations that are work-related.

If a driver is convicted of OUI, he or she can apply for a work license after 180 days.

When a driver’s license is suspended administratively or there’s an OUI conviction, after 30 days the driver can apply for a lock device that would be installed in his or her vehicle, O’Connell said. The device checks for the presence of alcohol when the vehicle is turned on and randomly requires the driver to blow into the device while driving.

“If there’s alcohol present, alarms go off and lights go on … and eventually the vehicle will lock him out,” O’Connell said, adding it costs between $100 and $150 a month to use the device and must be paid by the driver.

As for the number of administrative hearings requested and OUI convictions in the state, O’Connell did not have the figures for 2014. They will be compiled in April. He did say that roughly one-third of the people arrested for OUI request an administrative hearing. In 2013, there were 4,243 OUI convictions in Maine, which he noted did not necessarily mean the offense occurred during that year.

Nichols could not be reached for comment as of press time.

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