Sheriff calls for ouster of MDEA head

Posted Dec. 06, 2010, at 7:26 p.m.

MACHIAS, Maine — Washington County Sheriff Donnie Smith is lashing out at the state’s highest drug enforcement officer, calling on Gov.-elect Paul LePage to replace him.

In an e-mail sent early Friday morning to numerous recipients, Smith called Maine Drug Enforcement Agency Director Roy McKinney “not fit to direct this agency” because he has “continued to cover up and allow misconduct within the agency.”

In a telephone interview, Smith said that if McKinney remains in his position, the Washington County Sheriff’s Department would stop working with the MDEA.

“It’s a rogue agency that has a director that doesn’t want to deal with anything,” Smith said Friday. “The way I feel is that I hold my own inmates to a higher standard than Roy McKinney holds his agents.”

This isn’t the first time Smith has clashed with the MDEA, according to Bangor Daily News archives. In 2008, he threatened to stop working with the agency after a DVD surfaced that showed an MDEA agent allegedly engaged in criminal behavior. According to the previous stories, the DVD showed an MDEA officer flash his badge, drink from a beer and then drive away in an automobile.

Smith rescinded his threat not to work with the MDEA a week later after the Maine Department of Public Safety and the Attorney General’s Office said they found no evidence of criminal activities by the officer, who had been disciplined in 2006 over the contents of the video.

McKinney declined a request Friday for an interview with the Bangor Daily News, referring questions to his superior, Maine Public Safety Commissioner Anne Jordan. Jordan had nothing but positive things to say about McKinney and said Smith’s protests would have no impact on her support of him.

“I’m not going to get into name-calling with Sheriff Smith,” said Jordan. “Roy McKinney is an incredibly well-respected and highly qualified MDEA director who’s nationally recognized and does outstanding work.”

Jordan said that in addition to McKinney’s professionalism, he is known for his teamwork — including an investigation with Smith’s department into a burglary ring in Washington County.

“Frankly, I don’t know why Donnie suddenly after midnight decided to put this thing out,” said Jordan. “It’s just very unfortunate that he wanted to pull this stuff at this time.”

The e-mail was addressed to Jordan as well as Rep. David Burns, Sen. Kevin Raye, an official in the Maine Attorney General’s Office, several news organizations and a number of law enforcement officials.

Smith cited four incidents he said show that McKinney is not running the MDEA properly, including the drinking and driving DVD, an MDEA agent improperly using a Taser while transporting a prisoner from Minnesota, and $3,000 in buy money that went missing and then was paid back by an MDEA agent.

Smith said part of the reason for sending the e-mail is pressure he’s under from Washington County residents, particularly in the case of the missing buy money.

“It’s out in the public,” said Smith of the incident involving the missing $3,000. “I’m not going to cover it up. I think it’s a disgrace.”

Asked for documentation to back up his allegations, Smith said the problem is that there is no documentation available that shows the incidents were dealt with appropriately.

“I had to find out about these things from the community,” he said. “I wasn’t told about any of this until I asked.”

Smith said part of the reason he is so angry is that some of the incidents involved Washington County officers who were “loaned” temporarily to the MDEA. Despite their new assignments, said Smith, the perception in the public is that they are still employed by the county.

Jordan declined to discuss Smith’s allegations in detail, but she said some of the incidents he raised are as much as 4 years old and as far as she is concerned are closed cases.

“They have all been investigated and handled appropriately,” said Jordan.

The MDEA director is appointed by the commissioner of public safety after being nominated by the MDEA Advisory Board. There is no set term for the position. According to the law, located in Maine Revised Statutes Annotated Title 25, the governor must agree with the commissioner’s choice or else the advisory committee is asked for more recommendations.

In his e-mail, Smith asked Burns and Raye to try to influence LePage against supporting McKinney.

“I understand supervisors in Augusta have to re-apply for their positions,” wrote Smith. “I hope you would have the governor’s ear and assist upon [finding] a new MDEA director.”

Raye did not return calls seeking comment Friday and Monday. Burns said Friday evening that he hadn’t seen Smith’s e-mail because he had just returned from a trip to Africa. But Burns, a former officer with the Maine State Police and a member of the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, had high praise for both Smith and McKinney.

“We need to be working together,” said Burns. “If there are issues, hopefully we can address them. We need drug enforcement activity in Washington County. Everybody knows that.”

Burns could not be reached for further comment Monday.

Dan Demeritt, a spokesman for LePage, saw the e-mail Friday but said the LePage team essentially had no comment.

“We’re not in office yet,” said Demeritt. “This isn’t something we’re in a position to comment on.”

McKinney, a law enforcement officer for 37 years, served 20 years with the Bangor Police Department with his last assignment as the Criminal Investigation Division commander, according to the MDEA website.

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