Former Maine DHHS employee pleads guilty to lesser charge

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FARMINGTON — A former state employee Tuesday withdrew her guilty plea to drunken driving and pleaded guilty to driving to endanger.

Joan M. Smyrski, 63, of Jefferson pleaded guilty Jan. 3, 2017, to operating under the influence and entered an agreement that delayed sentencing for one year in a Franklin County court.

A deputy from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office arrested Smyrski on Sept. 25, 2016, in Strong after she was stopped for erratic operation. 

Deputy District Attorney James Andrews said was no accident or injuries involved,  and the state is satisfied with Smyrski’s successful completion of the deferred sentencing agreement. As part of the agreement, Smyrski was allowed to withdraw her plea to the OUI charge.

Retired-Active Justice Thomas Delahanty II sentenced Smyrski to 48 hours in the Franklin County Detention Center in Farmington or 96 hours to the alternative sentencing program. She would be required to do community service tasks in Lewiston or Auburn area. The next program is Feb. 16. 

She was also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine and give up her driver’s license for 30 days. 

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Defense attorney Henry Beck said Smyrski will participate in the alternative sentencing program. She had no criminal history prior to this case.

She has paid a great price as virtue of her employment, Beck said.

“I just need to take responsibility for my actions and I have,” Smyrski said.

Smyrski was an associate director for the Maine Office of Substance Abuse when she was arrested.

She is not a department employee, according to an email from Emily Spencer, manager of media relations for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. 

Walter McKee, whose law firm represented Smyrski, said in January 2016 that Smyrski was an exemplary employee at DHHS for more than 34 years and deserved a second chance.

McKee confirmed Tuesday that she did lose her job.

“It was incredibly unfair and callous for the state to kick Joan while she was down. But (she) has moved beyond it at this point,” McKee wrote in an email. 

dperry@sunmediagroup.net 

Joan Smyrski (Franklin County Detention Center)

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