PARIS — Oxford County commissioners finalized stern wording Wednesday and unanimously approved sending a formal complaint to Gov. Janet Mills requesting the removal of Sheriff Christopher Wainwright of Canton.

“We haven’t taken this lightly,” Chairman David Duguay of Byron said of their decision.

The detailed 10-page complaint includes dozens of pages of investigative records, some of which have been redacted, and also contains a short summary of the commissioners’ decision, that “it is the belief of the Board (of Commissioners) that Sheriff Wainwright has proven himself unworthy of the Office of Sheriff. Whatever his intentions, there can be no excuse for his repeated lack of diligence and judgment, and violations of law and County policies.”

Commissioners believe Wainwright “failed to faithfully and efficiently perform the duties of his office and improperly exercised and acted outside of his legal authority,” according to the complaint. “There is no room in the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office for a sheriff who places himself above the policies that he is charged with administering, above the ethical responsibilities that he swore an oath to uphold, and the laws that he is charged with enforcing. No one is unaccountable,” the complaint says.

Just before 6:30 a.m., hours before the commissioners’ scheduled 9 a.m. meeting, Wainwright issued a statement to the Sun Journal defending himself and noting he was aware commissioners intended to “publish their complaint against me today, together with the reports they purport to rely on. At each turn, I and others have requested to see this information, but the board has secreted the information from disclosure or scrutiny.”

He wrote, “As a matter of public record, I have acknowledged the mistakes that I have made while in office and apologized for some as appropriate. But let me be clear, there is nothing about my conduct in office, personally or professionally, that merits my removal. I remain eager to engage the process of review with a neutral arbitrator of fact and law — the governor.”


Wainwright did not attend Wednesday’s meeting.

The complaint was sent to the governor’s office later Wednesday, and county attorney Amy Dieterich said it was also being sent to Wainwright’s attorney.

The governor’s press secretary, Ben Goodman, acknowledged the governor has received the complaint.

In a note to the Sun Journal, Goodman noted the constitutional provision that allows the governor to remove an elected sheriff from office “upon complaint, due notice and hearing” if she finds the sheriff “is not faithfully or efficiently performing any duty imposed on the sheriff by law.”

“The governor takes this Constitutional responsibility seriously,” he said. “She intends to consult with the Office of the Attorney General to establish an objective and impartial process to review the complaint and provide the Sheriff with the opportunity to respond, all of which will inform any decision she may make in the future. ”

He added that there is no timeframe for a final decision.


On Jan. 16, Commissioners Duguay, Steve Merrill of Norway and Timothy Turner of Buckfield voted unanimously 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.

Last year, after learning of the sales, the commission hired Maria Fox from the law firm Murray, Plumb and Murray of Portland to conduct an investigation.

Fox determined that the sheriff’s “trade of firearms and firearm parts from the county’s evidence room without permission, accurate documentation or following required legal procedures violated several Maine civil laws, a criminal statute, county policy and put Oxford County at risk.”

In an email last week, Wainwright defended his actions to sell the firearms, saying that the majority of firearms that were removed for disposal or destruction in 2021 were weapons used in the commission of a crime or involved in a traumatic event.

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

“No firearms were taken from law-abiding citizens,” he said. “Some of these firearms had been in storage for over 40 years. These firearms were not returned to the offenders because they were unlawful to possess a firearm due to mental health concerns, substance use misuse, or convicted of a felony or a crime of domestic violence. Some firearms were destroyed, because they were illegal for having an altered or removed serial number, or a sawed-off barrel. The other weapons were disposed of to a licensed firearm dealer because they were used in suicides or suicide attempts, and the families did not want them returned.”

He added that all proceeds were used to purchase equipment for the department, which saved taxpayers money.


In her investigative summary, Fox reported that Wainwright traded agency-issued firearms and parts with JT Reid of Auburn. He included no other firearm dealers, did not conduct an auction and did not require a forfeiture order or consent from the property owner before selling the firearms.

Wainwright also ordered staff not to “contact owners of the firearms prior to trading them with JT Reid or to check the status of the criminal case that may have been associated with the firearms,” she found.

During Fox’s investigation, in late 2023, Wainwright continued to dispose of county-owned property without authorization. This time it was exercise equipment, according to the complaint, despite “specific instruction from the (Board of Commissioners) not to dispose of this property.”

Fox found that “while the property at issue in this subsequent breach was exercise equipment rather than firearms, the sheriff’s willful and knowing violation of county policy and state law while under active investigation for the same behavior is a significant and meaningful indication that the sheriff has no intention of following the law or county policy going forward.”

In addition to the firearms sales, commissioners based their request to remove Wainwright on a decision he made to allow two school resource officers to carry guns in schools last year even though their certification as law enforcement officers had expired.

The third situation noted in the commissioners’ complaint is tied to their investigation that Wainwright asked one of his deputies to go easy on a woman who had received a traffic citation in August 2022, and his verbal attack of the deputy for speaking out about the sheriff’s request.


After commissioners met in January and decided to seek Wainwright’s removal, they met again Feb. 1 to work on draft complaint language, and scheduled Wednesday’s meeting to finalize that language, meeting with Dieterich and Grady Burns, both from the law firm Skelton, Taintor & Abbott, for more than an hour in executive session.

Immediately after returning to public session Turner moved to send the letter of complaint to the governor, and he, Duguay and Merrill unanimously voted to request Wainwright’s removal.

According to the complaint, commissioners feel that “while the people may have elected the Sheriff before the facts giving rise to this Complaint were publicly revealed, the actions of the Sheriff have proven that he is incapable of faithfully or efficiently performing the functions of the Office. The Board (of Commissioners) believes that Oxford County deserves a Sheriff that embodies the virtues and values of the Maine Law Enforcement Code of Ethics, particularly the following requirement: ‘Honest in thought and deed in both my personal and official life, I will be exemplary in obeying the laws of the land and the regulations of my department.'”

For these reasons, the commissioners are asking the governor that she exercise her “Constitutional and statutory authority to have the Sheriff removed and to replace him with an individual who is capable and worthy of the job.”

The commissioners have no authority to suspend or fire Wainwright, who has been with the Oxford County department for more than 30 years and was first elected sheriff in 2018. Maine statute dictates that only the governor has that power.

He was reelected in 2022 to another four-year term, winning by 344 votes over his challenger, Oxford County Lt. Justin Brown, 13,521 to 13,177.


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

In addition to the specific actions they note in the complaint, commissioners said that multiple investigations into Wainwright’s actions have been disruptive to the Sheriff’s Office, have impacted morale, resulted in staff turnover and cost Oxford County taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars that could have been used for projects important to residents.

Wainwright appears determined to fight for his job.

In his statement Wednesday, he said “perhaps in time, my personal reputation will recover from the commissioners’ reliance on rumor and innuendo; however, as an elected public figure, with nothing to hide, that my personal reputation remains secondary to my professional commitment to the integrity of the office of sheriff and preservation of the dignity of that office, in Oxford County, and beyond.”

He pledged to continue to carry out his duties and obligations of the office, to employees of the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office, “the electorate, and others in a dignified and professional manner, by not publicly commenting on shameful mischaracterizations of my time in office outside the process to be determined by the governor.”

Last year, the police union urged commissioners to begin the process to remove Wainwright, saying the department has been in turmoil for five years due to “poor management and the lack of leadership.”

Last week, a small group of patrol deputies issued a statement in support of Wainwright, saying they did not support the union’s position and stand behind the sheriff as their elected leader.

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