State votes to pull jail workers’ certification

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AUBURN — A state board voted to revoke the certification of two corrections officers at Androscoggin County Jail who were involved in duct-taping a jail worker to his office chair last year.

The board of trustees at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy also voted May 7 to place a third corrections officer who was in on the prank on probation and ordered him to undergo ethics training

Former Sgt. Kevin Harmon resigned shortly after the September incident came to light.

Former Cpl. Patrick Gorham was fired in November by the Androscoggin County commissioners on a recommendation from Sheriff Guy Desjardins. Gorham later sued the county. A judge recently dismissed Gorham’s complaint, saying he had filed his appeal too late.

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The academy’s trustees voted to revoke the corrections certifications for both former county workers. The two have 30 days to appeal the trustees’ actions from the date of their written notification, according to John B. Rogers, director of the academy.

If they don’t appeal or fail in their appeals, the revocations would take effect and neither Harmon nor Gorham would be allowed to work in a Maine jail or prison, Rogers said.

A third corrections officer, Robert Murphy, was suspended in November without pay for a week and put on a three-month probation by the Androscoggin County commissioners.

Academy trustees voted to give Murphy a consent agreement that offers a three-year probationary period, during which he would be allowed to work in corrections but would have to undergo ethics training. He, too, has 30 days to appeal the trustees’ actions.

Desjardins notified Rogers last year when the sheriff became aware of the workers’ actions. Rogers said all chief administrative officers in Maine, such as police chiefs and sheriffs, are required by law to notify the academy’s director of an officer’s action that results in a conviction or violation or conduct that could result in suspension or revocation of the certificate. In the cases of these three officers, Rogers said the possible criminal offense was assault.

Desjardins was required to report the incidents to Androscoggin County District Attorney Norman Croteau to consider possible criminal charges; none has been brought.

On Sept. 22, at about 11:30 p.m., jail worker John Morrissette was taped to his chair, bound by his arms, legs and head. The chair was wheeled into a prisoner transport elevator and sent to a different floor. He later freed himself.

A month earlier, Gorham had put a fellow corrections worker in a headlock during his early-morning shift. Afterward, that worker laid his head on his desk repeatedly and complained he felt disoriented and was nauseous.

Both incidents were captured on security cameras in the jail. Desjardins played the videotapes for county commissioners during a disciplinary hearing.

Two of the three commissioners voted to fire Gorham, as recommended by Desjardins. A third commissioner said she believed the punishment was too harsh.

A union representative said the sheriff’s recommended punishment was hasty and inconsistent with past disciplinary practices. He said Desjardins had used Gorham as an example to other workers.

Rogers said all reports from local departments are funneled to the Maine Criminal Justice Academy’s Board of Trustees Complaint Committee. After investigating each case, that committee makes a recommendation to the full board, which votes on each recommendation.

Androscoggin County Commissioner Randall Greenwood said Thursday: “I feel strongly the commissioners made the right decision in taking the sheriff’s recommendation in termination.” The Board of Trustees’ decision “reaffirms” the commissioners’ vote, Greenwood said.

cwilliams@sunjournal.com

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