AUGUSTA — Christopher Wainwright defended his actions during a hearing Monday to consider whether to remove him as sheriff of Oxford County.

The hearing will continue Wednesday morning with further testimony and closing statements.

The Oxford County Commission sent a detailed 10-page complaint in February to Gov. Janet Mills, asking her to remove Wainwright for his failure “to faithfully and efficiently perform the duties of his office and improperly exercised and acted outside of his legal authority.”

They came to this conclusion following a number of investigations into Wainwright’s conduct, including his decision in 2020 and 2021 to dispose of dozens of firearms from the department’s evidence room without the knowledge of county officials and outside their financial scrutiny.

In addition to the firearms sales, commissioners based 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.

The third situation 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. When deputies, concerned with the request discussed it with their supervisors, Wainwright yelled at the deputies saying he had the authority to rip up a ticket.


Oxford County Commissioners David Duguay of Byron, Timothy Turner of Buckfield and Steven Merrill of Norway have no authority to fire or suspend Wainwright. Only Gov. Janet Mills has the constitutional power to dismiss him.

Former Maine Supreme Judicial Court Justice Donald G. Alexander was appointed by Mills to conduct the hearing and give his recommendation to the governor.

The hearing began with each side — Amy Dieterich representing commissioners and Jonathan Berry representing Wainwright — giving 10-minute opening statements before witnesses were called.

Berry led Wainwright on a slow and methodical examination of the evidence that lasted for an hour. Looking first to attack the question of the school resource officers, Wainwright, despite being chief deputy at the time in 2018, said he had no input in the hiring of the two SROs. The appointments were made in the middle of an election for sheriff, with Wainwright challenging Sheriff James Theriault.

Oxford County Sheriff Christopher Wainwright, left, listens Monday to his attorney, Jonathan Berry, during Monday’s dismissal hearing at the Maine Department of Public Safety in Augusta. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

“I don’t know what happened in 2018,” Wainwright said. “I was not involved in the hiring.”

The two SROs were not certified through the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, but were each given a gun and a badge to cover the schools.


Wainwright and Dieterich argued whether the school resource officers received their service weapons before 2021, which Wainwright asserts.

Dieterich produced paperwork that appeared to indicate otherwise.

Wainwright defended the gun sales to J.T. Reid Gun Shop in Auburn, 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. He added that the county had not auctioned off guns for sale since at least 2000.

An investigator hired by the county 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.”

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

Oxford County Sheriff Christopher Wainwright of Canton consults Monday with his attorney, Jonathan Berry, during Monday’s dismissal hearing at the Maine Department of Public Safety in Augusta. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

In the incident where he asked a deputy to go easy on the recipient of a ticket and his follow-up phone call to deputies, Wainwright admitted that he should never have put his deputies in such a situation.


The day’s first witness was Deputy Tyler Fournier, who ticketed Amber Coffin when she and a friend had opened a Twisted Tea drink in their vehicle. Fournier testified that while on detail at a Dirigo High School football game in early November, Wainwright approached him and said, “make it right,” in reference to Coffin’s ticket.

Oxford County Sheriff’s Deputy Tyler Fournier testifies Monday at the Maine Department of Public Safety in Augusta on a complaint filed by county commissioners against Sheriff Christopher Wainwright. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

In September 2022, Wainwright had seen Coffin, who was suffering from terminal cancer, at a charity event for her. According to a statement released by Wainwright, “while there he overheard the woman’s sister describe an encounter with a new deputy, while enjoying a day of distraction with her sister, that resulted in receiving a ticket of some kind. Sheriff Wainwright recognized this woman as a former high school classmate of his brother.”

Fournier testified that he felt uncomfortable and worried about the two-minute conversation.

“I was taken off guard by it,” Fournier said.

He discussed the situation with his partner, Deputy Gerald Maccione, after the game, who suggested that he report it to his supervisor.

Dieterich then played the recording of Wainwright getting incensed that Fournier reported the incident and did not discuss it first with Wainwright.


“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. “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.”

Fournier, who said he was testifying on his own free will because “it is my duty,” added that he feared retaliation and felt his job could be at risk.

Speaking remotely, Maccione followed Fournier and confirmed the conversation he had with Fournier. He said he suggested to Fournier to discuss it up the chain of command.

“It was the right thing to do,” he said.

In his conversation with Wainwright, Maccione said he was “nervous. I was stuttering on my words. It was a difficult conversation.”

His supervisor, Sgt. Timothy Ontengco, later spoke to Maccione, who he described as upset with the situation. He called it a “venting session.” He added that Fournier, who first reported the incident to him, was “despondent ” during their conversation.


Ontengco said he was unhappy with what he heard when he listened to the tape recording of the conversation with Wainwright from he two deputies, describing his reaction as disappointment and shock.

“We don’t make it a habit to fix tickets,” he said.

Detective Michael Halacy, who runs the evidence room, discussed how he processes evidence that must be stored. He testified that he was concerned when Wainwright told him not to look for the owners of guns in the evidence room.

“If they have not been looking for the gun, we shouldn’t waste time looking for the gun owner,” Halacy testified Wainwright told him.

Former Maine Supreme Judicial Court Justice Donald Alexander considers a complaint Monday from the Oxford County Commission against Oxford County Sheriff Christopher Wainwright. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Duguay testified that Wainwright’s actions cost Oxford County taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars, while Turner said the sheriff never seemed apologetic or remorseful about the gun sale.

Neil McLean, district attorney for Oxford, Franklin and Androscoggin counties, testified for Wainwright, saying he has had no major issues with cases coming from Oxford County.

Attorney Edward Dilworth said the department under Wainwright has a good reputation in the legal sector.

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 was elected sheriff in 2018, winning the position in a contest against former Sheriff James Theriault, and was reelected in 2022.

If Wainwright is removed, the governor will appoint an interim sheriff to serve until the next scheduled election.

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