AUGUSTA — The state legislature won’t hold public hearings this year into the conduct of undercover game wardens after a newspaper reported on tactics including providing alcohol and encouraging poaching, and one legislator said lawmakers lack the stomach to question law enforcement ahead of elections.

Chairs of the committee that oversees the warden service said such hearings wouldn’t be useful as long as state law prevents law enforcement agencies from disclosing their covert operations policy.

Republican Sen. Paul Davis, of Sangerville, and Democratic Sen. David Duchesne, of Hudson, said Friday they are “certain” that next session lawmakers will introduce legislation to tweak that law. They said current law hinders their ability to review the warden service’s covert activities, including its ability to determine whether people are predisposed to committing wildlife crimes and then incite them to violate the law.

Duchesne said there may be questions about what happens to people who might get swept up in investigations. Davis said he’s been told other states have policies on covert activities posted online.

A Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife spokesman declined to answer whether undercover operations remain suspended following the Maine Sunday Telegram’s disclosure of an undercover warden’s identity. The warden service’s commander has said his department doesn’t intend to investigate allegations of misconduct.

Independent state Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos, of Friendship, a Judiciary Committee member, said he unsuccessfully asked for hearings into possible civil rights violations.


“The idea that people were put behind bars in Maine because of police undercover misconduct represents a gross violation of civil rights and the judicial process,” he said. “There needs to be some accountability with a transparent public hearing and investigation.”

But Evangelos said politicians in Augusta are focused on the fall election and “are putting personal ambitions ahead of the people.”

On July 20, the state Right to Know Advisory Committee will examine the warden service’s response to the newspaper’s public records requests. However, Evangelos said the committee’s review will be “narrow.”

Dozens of people have come forward to various media outlets and lawmakers since the May 8 Maine Sunday Telegram investigation detailed allegations by hunters who said a warden who spent two years investigating them and encouraging them to commit crimes crossed the line.

On June 1, the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee held a meeting at which it called forth Maine Warden Service commander Joel Wilkinson, Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife commissioner Chandler Woodcock and attorney general public records ombudsman Brenda Kielty. The public could attend but not speak.

Davis said that between the investigation’s publication and the meeting he met with Woodcock and Wilkinson, committee staff members and Democratic Rep. Stanley Short, of Pittsfield, to go over the newspaper’s investigation.


“We went over the whole thing, line by line, just like we did in public,” Davis said.

Evangelos said that wasn’t a proper way to conduct a fact-finding mission and ignored accounts of other undercover operations statewide.

But Davis said it wasn’t a rehearsal and committee members were free to ask questions.

Republican Sen. David Burns, of Whiting, chair of the judiciary committee, said his committee wouldn’t be the proper venue for such concerns.

Democratic Sen. Kim Rosen, of Bucksport, who chairs the criminal justice and public safety committee, said the committee hasn’t been asked to hold such a hearing.

Rosen said if someone brings forward the matter in January “then we’ll certainly hear it.”

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