Sheriff loses round in court

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AUBURN – If Androscoggin County were at war, or if a state of emergency were imminent, the sheriff would have the authority to gather up a posse.

Lacking such a situation however, a judge on Tuesday denied Sheriff Guy Desjardins’ request for an injunction against the County Commission he has been battling since winter.

The sheriff filed suit July 3, accusing the three-member commission of illegally preventing him from appointing a deputy of his choosing. Desjardins sought an injunction aimed at speeding up the process, so the position could be filled as soon as possible.

Desjardins and the commission have fought bitterly since February, when the sheriff first tried to hire a night-time patrol deputy, a job that was funded by the county Budget Committee.

For months, the commission blocked the hiring, refusing to create the position. Finally, Desjardins hired someone anyway, forwarding his candidate, patrol officer Maurice Drouin of the Livermore Falls Police Department, to the commission at the end of May.

Though the commission voted to create the job a few days later, it declined to acknowledge that a candidate had ever been forwarded and demanded that Desjardins start the search process anew.

Desjardins sued and attempted to get a court order to compel the commission to bend to his wishes. But Superior Court Justice Joyce A. Wheeler denied the request, saying Desjardins had little chance of winning a court case based on the merits of his argument.

“He gets to choose the people who work under his command,” said attorney Bryan Dench, who has been representing the county. “But the fiscal aspects of it are under the control of the county commission.”

According to Wheeler, the county personnel policy specifies that the sheriff does not have the authority to create and fill a position on his own. While some archaic parts of county law do allow for assembling a posse in times of extreme emergency, Wheeler was quick to point out that this is not one of those circumstances.

The ruling means that a temporary injunction will not be granted on Desjardins’ behalf. It does not mean he has to drop his suit against the commission.

“That’s obviously going to be up to him at this point,” Dench said.

At dinnertime Tuesday, Desjardins said he had heard about the ruling from his lawyer but had not examined the document that detailed it. The sheriff could not say how he will proceed in his battle against the commission.

“Until I can sit down with my attorney and discuss it, that decision has not yet been made,” Desjardins said.

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