PARIS — Residents on Monday pressed town officials for details of Police Chief Michael Madden’s license suspension in the first public meeting since he pleaded guilty to drunken driving.

William Merrill commended the chief’s job performance, but was bewildered, wondering why he hadn’t lost his job. 

“I’d be fired if I couldn’t drive down the road,” Merrill said. 

Both resident Rick Little and Selectman Janet Jamison asked Town Manager Amy Bernard why Madden wasn’t fired. Both said they recalled prior conversations with her that an OUI conviction would result in his termination, which Bernard denied ever saying or implying. 

Last week, Madden, 50, of Harrison, was suspended without pay for 30 non-consecutive days after he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of operating under the influence.

He was issued a summons by a Cumberland County Sheriff’s deputy in November after a traffic stop in Naples. According to court documents, Madden’s blood alcohol content was at or above 0.08 percent, the legal limit for driving.

At Monday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting, not every resident criticized the town’s handling of the situation, though even supporters’ comments carried a note of anxiety on an issue that has hovered over the town for the past four months.

In the first public meeting since the town announced the suspension, Bernard said the town, and not the police chief, will determine his work schedule. 

“The town takes this very serious and any (issues) moving forward will be grounds for immediate dismissal,” Bernard said. 

Nonconsecutive days of suspension were administered “to minimize the impact to the community and enable the Police Department (to continue) to run in a professional and efficient manner,” according to Bernard’s statement last week.

Madden, who did not attend the meeting, is expected to address the Board of Selectmen on Monday, April 27. 

Selectman Samuel Elliot said the town’s disciplinary action balanced protecting residents with maintaining public goodwill. 

“There’s general agreement among us that we’re not happy with the situation with the police chief,” Elliot said. 

Still, other residents objected to the timing of the suspension. Mike Risica said the intermittent suspension was “unacceptable.”

“The punishment should be swift, decisive. It seems like you want to have your cake and eat it, too,” Risica said. 

In justifying the suspension, Bernard detailed mitigating circumstances, noting Madden had taken responsibility for his actions, that the crime was not aggravated and that police officers in the department express their continued support. 

Rick Little, however, took exception to that notion, saying there was “implied coercion” when police officers were summoned together into a room to tell their superior officer that they had faith in him.

“How many people would have the fortitude to stand up in front of seven other guys? Does anyone have an issue with that?”  

But Lt. Jeffrey Lange, who’s filling in for Madden during his absences, said that’s not how police officers operate.

“If I’m going to say something, I’m going to say something to him,” Lange said.  

Bernard said the decision not to fire Madden was in part due to the length of the license suspension, and if his license was suspended for a year or more, the circumstances would have played out differently.

Madden’s license was suspended for 150 days and he was fined $500. For the first 30 days of the license suspension, he’s not allowed to drive. For the remaining 120 days an interlock device, which tests for alcohol before the car can start and requires the driver to blow into it while the car is in motion, will be installed.

Bernard clarified that during that period, Madden will be allowed to drive for work and personal reasons. She also said the town would not pay for the interlock device.

One of Madden’s job requirements is to have a driver’s license.

In addition to the town and court action, Madden faces possible disciplinary action by the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, which certifies police officers. 

Bernard said when she asked the academy’s disciplinary board if any police officer had ever had their license revoked for an OUI conviction, the answer was no. 

Resident Franca Ainsworth argued it is Madden’s first transgression. 

“He shouldn’t be crucified,” Ainsworth said. 

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