Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant solicited sex from at least two of his employees, according to an agent for the union that represents 23 sworn officers.
Ray Cote, business agent for Teamsters Local 340, said he received the reports directly from the employees but declined to name them. In one instance, Gallant sent multiple sexually explicit photographs of himself to a male deputy’s girlfriend, and asked that Gallant, the deputy and the woman have sex, Cote said. When the employee rebuffed the advances, Gallant threatened his job, Cote said.
In another instance, Gallant typed a message on a cellphone indicating he wanted to perform oral sex on a male employee, and then showed the person what he typed, Cote said.
Copies of four of the images sent to the deputy’s girlfriend, which were obtained by the Press Herald, show Gallant displaying his genitalia. His face is visible in three of the images, including one in which Gallant is in uniform.
Gallant admitted Tuesday to a TV news station that he had sent a sexually explicit photograph several years ago to a woman he did not identify, and announced he was resigning as president of the Maine Sheriffs’ Association.
He said Tuesday night during a county budget meeting that he did nothing illegal. “It was an adult thing that happened two years ago,” he told the Bangor Daily News.
Gallant did not respond to messages left Tuesday night on his office telephone and cellphone, and he did not respond to repeated requests for comment Wednesday.
The report comes on the heels of a national outpouring of allegations of sexual misconduct against men in prominent positions that has reached the highest levels of the media, business, entertainment and political worlds.
Cote said Oxford County, through its attorney, has been investigating the claims for several weeks, after a sheriff’s employee complained to county officials. He said they were preparing to interview members of the sheriff’s department about what they knew or experienced, but county officials told Cote he could not be present for the employee interviews, even though he represents the union members in employment matters.
“I insisted if they were going to do any investigating, as to bargaining unit members, I wanted to be present, and they denied that request,” Cote said.
County attorney Bryan Dench would not comment on whether he was conducting an investigation into Gallant’s behavior, whether commissioners had sought advice on whether to remove him or whether Cote’s allegations are true.
“The law with regard to county government puts the sheriff as an elected constitutional officer in the position of being in charge of the sheriff’s department without it being direct control or oversight by the county commissioners except in matters of finance,” Dench said. “The county commissioners really don’t have a whole lot of power or authority over the conduct of a sheriff, so their position is very limited with regard to something like this, but they do have the authority … to make a referral to the governor. Ultimately, the governor’s the one, if anyone does, to have the authority to take any action.”
Dench said it would be the county commissioners’ call whether Gallant’s behavior warrants a complaint to the governor, but he would not say whether the commissioners have asked for his advice on the matter.
Maine state law makes it a Class E misdemeanor to knowingly expose one’s genitals under circumstances that are likely to cause affront or alarm, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
According to the Maine Human Rights Commission, which enforces the state’s anti-discrimination laws, any unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when the sexual conduct is a condition of employment, if rejecting the advances is used to make employment decisions about the person being harassed or if the conduct creates a hostile, intimidating or offensive working environment.
Cote said he chose to speak publicly about the situation because he felt Oxford County officials were not doing enough to protect the members of the department.
“I’m certainly not going to protect a sexual predator who is preying on my bargaining unit members,” Cote said Wednesday. “I want this completely exposed.”
Cote said Gallant’s misconduct should disqualify him from his job, and he believes he should be removed from office.
Gallant confirmed to television station WGME on Tuesday night, after being told about one of the explicit photos, that it was he in the photograph and that it was taken in his office. Gallant, who was first elected in 2006 and is in his third four-year term as Oxford County sheriff, has served as president of the sheriffs’ association since January.
“I bring discredit to myself, to my uniform, my badge and the Maine Sheriffs’ Association,” Gallant said in a written statement. “The appropriate thing for me to do is not remain in a leadership position with the association and to step down.”
Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce, who was appointed acting president of the sheriffs’ association after Gallant’s resignation, said accusations by employees against Gallant should be fully investigated. Joyce said he had not heard that the images Gallant sent involved employees.
If the allegations are true, Joyce said, it would be difficult for Gallant to continue in office, and whether Gallant remains should be up to the people of Oxford County.
“We serve our communities, we serve our constituents, we serve the taxpayers, and really that’s a question of what do they want,” Joyce said.
The Attorney General’s Office, which investigates allegations of misconduct against police, did not return a message Wednesday regarding Gallant.
The Maine Constitution gives the governor the power to remove a sheriff who “is not faithfully or efficiently performing any duty imposed upon the sheriff by law.” The procedure, last attempted in 1951, requires a complaint, due notice to the sheriff and a hearing.
Julie Rabinowitz, a spokeswoman for Gov. Paul LePage, declined to comment on whether the governor’s office was involved in any discussion about removing Gallant, saying, “It’s an HR situation.”
Peter Steele, LePage’s director of communications, also refused to comment.
“Our comment is we are not commenting on this issue,” Steele said.
Stephen McCausland, a spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said he had no information about Gallant, his conduct, or whether the Department of Public Safety is investigating him, and that a reporter should “stop asking dumb questions.”
County Administrator Scott Cole said that because Gallant and all Maine sheriffs are elected, county government has no role in his employment.
“Only the governor can remove a sheriff from office,” Cole said. “That is the bottom line.”
Oxford County Commissioners David Duguay of Byron, Steve Merrill of Norway and Chairman Tim Turner of Buckfield all said via email they would have no comment on the matter.
Cole said that Oxford County commissioners held an all-day meeting Tuesday that finished at 5 p.m., then reconvened at 6 p.m. for a budget meeting that Gallant took part in.
“At the end of the (5 p.m.) meeting, the sheriff came in and spoke with the commissioners and myself privately and he basically told us what he told Channel 13,” Cole said. “He owned it, and that was that; there wasn’t much conversation.”
Cole said Gallant told commissioners that he had made an error in judgment. “He had sent a picture to somebody. ‘Not a good move,’ is what he said. He owned it and he basically told us what he told the news station,” Cole said.
The sheriff does not have a county-issued cellphone.
Asked if Gallant was on duty when the photo was taken, Cole said he could not respond to specific questions. “Recent revelations in the news are what county officials know,” he said.
Cole had not yet responded to a request for copies of any disciplinary records involving Gallant.
Gallant, who is divorced, was an Army sergeant serving in Vietnam. He worked with the Rumford Police Department from 1980 to 2005, eventually serving as police chief. He then worked as the police chief in Wilton in 2005, before being elected sheriff in 2006.
Rumford Town Manager Linda-Jean Briggs said she had one disciplinary record from Gallant’s time in Rumford stemming from a complaint by then-Police Chief Timothy Bourassa in December 1996.
Gallant, a lieutenant at the time, had made two statements to a reporter “alleging misconduct on the part of Chief Bourassa.”
The Rumford Board of Selectmen found that Gallant’s statements to the reporter were motivated by a longstanding feud with the police chief and a desire to take the chief’s job. The disciplinary action resulted in a week’s suspension without pay.
Lewiston Sun Journal reporter Kathryn Skelton and Advertiser Democrat reporter Erin Place contributed to this story.
Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant (Maine Sheriffs’ Association)