Oxford County Commission asks Paul LePage to remove Wayne Gallant


PARIS — After a four-hour executive session Tuesday, the Oxford County Commission voted unanimously to file a complaint with Gov. Paul LePage seeking the removal of Wayne Gallant from his position as Oxford County sheriff.

According to the complaint, commissioners learned over the course of a three-week investigation 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.

The commissioners — Steven Merrill or Norway, Timothy Turner of Buckfield and David Duguay of Byron — declined further comment after the executive session.

The governor’s office also declined to comment.

“Now that this has been referred to the governor’s office and will require a legal proceeding, we cannot comment,” Julie Rabinowitz, the governor’s press secretary, said in an email to the Portland Press Herald on Tuesday night.

The commission had investigated two complaints of sexual misconduct against Gallant, who has been sheriff since 2006. The complaints were made to county officials, according to Ray Cote, business agent for Teamsters Local 340, a union that represents 23 officers of the Oxford County Sheriff’s Department.

In one of the original complaints, Gallant was alleged to have sent multiple sexually explicit photographs of himself to a male deputy’s girlfriend with a request that the three of them have sex together. When the deputy rebuffed the offer, he claims, Gallant threatened his job, Cote said.

In the second original complaint brought to the commissioners, according to Cote, Gallant was alleged to have typed a message on a cellphone indicating he wanted to perform oral sex on a male employee.

Bryan Dench, attorney for the Oxford County Commission, said that when allegations against Gallant first arose, he advised the commissioners to have the issue “investigated independently” so “there can be no question that the information the commissioners had was reliable.” The commissioners hired an outside investigator.

“The complaint speaks for itself,” Dench said.

On Nov. 21, before any of the complaints against Gallant became public, Gallant admitted to a TV news station that he had sent a sexually explicit photograph several years ago to a woman he did not identify. He then announced he was resigning as president of the Maine Sheriffs’ Association, but he maintained his position as county sheriff.

He also said during a county budget meeting that same night that he did nothing illegal. “It was an adult thing that happened two years ago,” he told the Bangor Daily News.

Former Oxford County Sheriff Lloyd “Skip” Herrick said Tuesday evening, “I think the Oxford County Commission did the right thing.” 

Herrick, who lives in Paris and represents District 73 in the Maine House of Representatives, said he wishes Gallant had made the decision to remove himself from office for the sake of the residents of Oxford County and the integrity of the officers who serve under him, because now he’ll “be remembered for this” rather than his professional accomplishments, which Herrick said are numerous.
Herrick retired from his position as sheriff in 2006 and, although he’s maintained relationships with some members of the department, he said no one reached out to let him know what was going on.
Herrick said Gallant’s removal from office is warranted by his own admission that he sexted a photo of himself to a woman while in uniform. “The act that he admitted he committed in the sheriff’s office on county property while in uniform was enough” for removal, Herrick said.
Now, Herrick said, “I hope the governor does what he needs to do.”
Asked whether it might be better to restore the integrity of the department if the governor were to appoint someone from outside the department to serve as sheriff, Herrick said he would support that as a move during what would be a transition year, but he said there are also a number of highly qualified officers in the department who have aspirations to run for sheriff and whom he believes would be very capable of assuming that task.
Gallant ran for office as a Democrat which means the governor could ask the Democratic Party to put forward a nominee, but Herrick said the governor would not necessarily be bound by that recommendation and could select someone of his own choosing to step into the void if he decides to remove Gallant.

A week ago, on Wednesday, Nov. 29, Gallant publicly denied through his attorney any suggestion that he sexually harassed employees or threatened anyone with termination in connection with any solicitation for sex.

Attorney Jim Martemucci of Portland said his client “absolutely” denies sexually harassing any employees of the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office and “he certainly absolutely denies threatening termination of any employee with respect to any type of sexual allegation or solicitation.”

Attempts to get comment from Gallant or Martemucci were unsuccessful Tuesday.

Executive Editor Judith Meyer contributed to this report.

The Oxford County Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to file a complaint about Sheriff Wayne Gallant with Gov. Paul LePage. (WGME photo)

Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant (Sun Journal file photo)