PARIS — Christopher Wainwright remains sheriff in Oxford County — for now.

Oxford County Sheriff Christopher Wainwright. Submitted photo

The County Commission issued a scathing rebuke of Wainwright but will not file a complaint with Gov. Janet Mills seeking termination.

Calling it “a close call” and saying the board had “no good choices,” the three-member commission said it would be less disruptive to keep Wainwright on a short rope, rather than recommend terminating him now and waiting in limbo for the governor to decide.

“It is better to give the Sheriff an opportunity to follow through on his commitments for self-improvement and to demonstrate that he can conduct himself in a manner befitting his office,” according to commissioners.

Wainwright, who won reelection last November, faced discipline for asking one of his deputies to go easy on a woman who had received a traffic citation. He then overstepped his authority and acted unprofessional when he discovered a deputy had reported the incident to his supervisor.

The County Commission has no power to terminate the sheriff. State statute gives that authority to the governor. The only legal option left to the commissioners was to send a letter of complaint to Mills requesting his termination.


In their statement, Commissioners Steven Merrill, Timothy Turner and David Duguay said another incident would result in sending such a request to Mills.

“He needs to gain a clearer perspective on workplace dynamics and set his pride aside so that he can regain the trust of the employees of his office,” the commissioners said.

“Based on our conversation in executive session this morning, we believe that he is capable of doing that. Until he proves us wrong, the commissioners reserve their right to send a complaint to the Governor regarding these events. In the event that the Sheriff falls short of his commitments, or engages in further conduct unbefitting of his office, the County Commissioners will promptly revisit this matter.”

The union representing the employees in the Oxford County Sheriff’s Department had urged the commissioners to start the termination process.

Traci St. Clair, business agent with the Teamsters Union Local 340, submitted a letter on behalf of a majority of those employees, saying the department has been in turmoil for five years due to “poor management and the lack of leadership.”

“We respectfully ask that you request Governor Janet Mils to relieve him of his duties,” the union said in a statement. “Oxford County has suffered another black eye and our reputation has taken a major blow. People have lost any faith they had in the Sheriff.”


Commissioners discussed the matter with Wainwright for 2½ hours in executive session Thursday morning. It was also the first time that the board heard a recorded phone call between Wainwright and Deputy Tyler Fournier, who had issued a citation to Audrey Coffin for consuming alcohol in a vehicle on a public way on Aug. 20, 2022, and a second deputy who no longer works for the department.

“I don’t work for the county commissioners, and I don’t work for the chief deputy (James Urquhart.) You all work for me,” Wainwright is heard saying on the tape. “And if I tell you not to write any (expletive) tickets ever again, you won’t write any tickets ever again. You know what I’m saying? That’s the sheriff. It’s a constitutional office.”

The commissioners said they were offended when they heard the recording.

“The County Commissioners have struggled most intensely with the recorded Nov. 7 phone calls between the Sheriff and his two Deputies,” the commissioners said.

“The Sheriff clearly overstated his authority by telling those Deputies that they ‘work at his discretion.’ Any termination of a County employee requires approval of the County Commissioners under Title 30-A, Section 501. The Sheriff’s statements that he has ‘no boss’ and can ‘shred any ticket he wants’ are especially concerning. His tone and unprofessionalism demonstrated in those calls reveal his extremely poor judgment. ”

When Oxford County Administrator Donald Durrah learned of the existence of the recorded conversations between Wainwright and the deputies and of the Sheriff’s request to help an acquaintance, he asked county attorney Jeffrey Pross to have an outside law firm conduct an independent investigation. The law firm Murray, Plumb and Murray of Portland conducted the probe. The final report was presented to the commissioners on April 11.


That report discovered no evidence that Wainwright received or was promised any financial or other tangible benefit for seeking leniency. The report also noted that the Attorney General’s Office “does not prosecute law enforcement officers for making such requests for leniency, in the absence of some financial gain by the requesting law enforcement officer.”

Durrah declined to comment beyond the statement issued by the commissioners.

The sheriff did not attend the public session following the executive session.

Wainwright has apologized for his actions and said that he is “seeking management training classes to a gain better perspective on workplace dynamics.”

If Wainwright was not an elected constitutional officer, the commissioners implied that the decision to punish the sheriff may have been different.

“The Sheriff’s conduct is a textbook example of how not to behave when you are the supervisor of any organization,” the board said. “This is especially true for the highest-ranking law enforcement officer in Oxford County. If the Sheriff was a department head who worked directly for the County Commissioners, the Sheriff would have been suspended, investigated, and possibly terminated by the commissioners after a hearing.”

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