Oxford County Sheriff Christopher Wainwright speaks at Bethel’s annual town meeting June 15, 2023. Rose Lincoln/The Bethel Citizen file

PARIS — Oxford County commissioners are expected Thursday to reveal their decision to ask Gov. Janet Mills to remove Sheriff Christopher Wainwright from office.

Commissioners Tim Turner of Buckfield, Steven Merrill of Norway and David Duguay of Byron are scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. at their office in the Oxford County building on Western Avenue.

At their meeting Jan. 16, they made a motion to send a complaint to the governor detailing specific examples of Wainwright’s past actions, including disposal of dozens of firearms from the department’s evidence room without the knowledge of county officials and outside the financial scrutiny of those officials, and to request that Mills remove him from office.

While the decision has been made, the written request to the governor hasn’t been sent.

The commissioners have no authority to suspend or fire Wainwright, who was first elected sheriff in 2018. Maine statute dictates that only the governor has that power.

If a sheriff is removed, the governor appoints an interim one to serve until the next scheduled election.


Wainwright was reelected in 2022 to his second four-year term.

Commissioners also based their decision to ask for Wainwright’s removal on the belief that, according to the motion made to request his removal, he “failed to faithfully and efficiently perform the duties of his office and improperly exercised and acted outside of his legal authority.”

In 2020 and 2021, Wainwright sold firearms from the evidence room and received credit for those purchases, without the knowledge of county officials. The Oxford County Administrator’s Office has no record of the sales, former County Administrator Donald Durrah said last year.

Commissioners have since changed the purchasing policy to prevent such a transaction from happening again.

In addition to the firearms sales, commissioners are basing their request on Wainwright’s decision to allow two school resource officers to carry guns in schools last year even though their certification as law enforcement officers had expired.

Percy Turner, who covers the schools in Regional School Unit 10 based in Rumford, and Michael Kaspereen, who covers Hiram-based Maine School Administrative District 55, carried guns and badges, with the power to make arrests, despite not being certified after they each had retired from the Maine State Police.


According to Sun Journal archives, the original appointments for these officers had been made by former Sheriff James Theriault in 2018, and Wainwright continued to renew the contracts with the two school systems despite the officers’ lack of certification. At the time, Wainwright blamed the oversight on recordkeeping, noting that both officers were experienced and well-qualified to carry firearms.

The third situation noted in the commissioners’ motion to seek Wainwright’s removal is tied to commissioners’ investigation in November that Wainwright asked one of his deputies to go easy on a woman who had received a traffic citation.

The sheriff allegedly requested Deputy Tyler Fournier show leniency to the woman who was cited for consuming alcohol in a vehicle on a public way on Aug. 20, 2022, according to an audio recording of a phone call leaked to the Bangor Daily News.

Wainwright reportedly got incensed that Fournier, who was uncomfortable with the request and feeling pressure, reported the incident to his sergeant, which sent the complaint up the chain of command.

According to the audio recording, Wainwright is heard saying “I don’t work for the county commissioners, and I don’t work for the chief deputy (James Urquhart.) You all work for me …. 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.”

At the time, commissioners said they were offended when they heard the recording and ultimately reprimanded the sheriff for his behavior.


Commissioners then issued a statement, saying Wainwright “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.” And, “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.”

Wainwright offered an apology, admitting that he “overstated his authority as sheriff and using inappropriate language.” He also admitted he violated Maine’s Law Enforcement Code of Ethics by asking his deputy to show favor to someone.

He also said he was “seeking management training classes to a gain better perspective on workplace dynamics.”

On Wednesday, Wainright issued a statement on the latest developments.

“I am aware of the Oxford County Board of Commissioners’ procedural vote authorizing the filing of a complaint with the Governor, pursuant to Title 30-A, sec. 441,” he wrote. “I am not aware of any further action on that vote. I am also not aware of any new or recent developments that would merit this extraordinary action, but I am working to gather additional information. 

“My first priority,” Wainwright continued, “is and will continue to be the preservation of the integrity of the Office of Sheriff — restoration of the dignity of that Office, in Oxford County — and the exclusive authority of the Governor in this matter. In that light and with those priorities in mind, I will continue to carry out my duties and obligations to my Office, Oxford County Sheriff’s Office employees, the institution of the Office of Sheriff, the electorate, and others in a dignified and professional manner. 


“I will provide further information as appropriate,” the sheriff wrote, “however, it is my sincere hope that all parties involved respect the legal, political and constitutional implications of this development.”

In late 2022, a former clerk at the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office filed suit against Wainwright, Urquhart and the county after she said she was forced to resign for speaking out about unfair worker treatment.

Joan Kelly of Hartford filed a civil complaint in Oxford County Superior Court alleging she resigned from her position after her job description was changed and she was disciplined unfairly for going public with concerns about unequal treatment of employees and the coverup of employee misconduct.

Before a disciplinary hearing with the commissioners, Kelly met with Urquhart on Jan. 13, 2020, where she claims he said he thought she was being fired because of a “personality issue,” and that Urquhart told her he and other male employees had had “similar confrontations” with Wainwright, but hadn’t been disciplined.

Kelly was ultimately suspended for one week without pay and put on probation for six months. A performance improvement plan was also drafted for her.

Following a meeting to discuss the terms of her return to work, Kelly resigned.

The lawsuit was moved to federal court at the request of defendants, who later filed a motion to dismiss the case.

On Friday, the court dismissed several of Kelly’s claims, but allowed a First Amendment claim and a 14th Amendment equal protection claim to move forward. According to the ruling, the claims that were dismissed “were not supported by the facts and, as a matter of law, in any event, Wainwright and Urquhart are protected by qualified immunity.”

Wainwright lives in Canton and has worked for the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office for more than 30 years, starting as a patrol deputy when he was 19 and working his way up the ranks.

He also spent over 20 years in the U.S. Army Reserve, according to his bio on the sheriff’s website, where he served multiple overseas deployments, including as a police officer in Kosovo through an assignment with the U.S. State Department in the early 2000s, and later in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

A graduate of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Academy, he has earned the National Sheriff’s Association Medal of Valor and has twice been awarded the Maine Sheriff’s Association Presidential Award for Valor.

Wainwright had served as interim chief deputy for more than nine months when he was elected sheriff in 2018, winning the position in a contest against former Sheriff James Theriault.

Theriault was appointed sheriff in early 2018 by Gov. Paul LePage to replace Wayne Gallant, who resigned Dec. 6, 2017, amid accusations of sexual misconduct involving subordinate employees.

Staff Writers Steve Sherlock, Christopher Williams and Mark LaFlamme contributed to this report.

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