MACHIAS, Maine — The Washington County sheriff continued his public attempt to discredit the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency — a pattern established over the past several years — by repeating this week his accusation that the agency is covering up misdeeds by its agents.
In a press release issued Thursday to nearly 20 news organizations in Maine and Canada, Sheriff Donnie Smith charged that MDEA failed to investigate missing drug funds in 2008, tried to cover up the possible theft, and then reacted only when the money was found lost during a routine audit.
MDEA officials, however, quickly denied Smith’s claims.
“This matter is 3 years old,” said Darrell Crandall, MDEA division commander. “A review was conducted when the agent responsible for the money reported it lost to his supervisor. Then and now, there is no evidence to suggest misappropriation. The officer who had custody of the money was deemed responsible and repaid that money.”
Crandall said Thursday night that at the time the money was lost, Smith was informed as to what had happened and Crandall believed that all of Smith’s questions were answered.
MDEA Director Roy McKinney said Friday that Smith is fully aware an investigation was conducted and completed two years ago.
“He knew all about this within one month of [our investigation],” McKinney said. “He spoke with the division commander and was provided a detailed verbal report.”
McKinney explained that his agents handle money all the time. It is used in covert operations to buy illegal drugs while undercover. In 2008, one agent’s supervisor was preparing for an inspection and could not find reimbursement for two items. One was money for a covert purchase, and the other was reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses. McKinney’s investigation revealed that the agent involved lost the money and was responsible for repaying it. He since has done so, McKinney said.
McKinney said that in the three years since this incident, Smith has never contacted him personally to discuss the missing money.
But Smith contends that MDEA officials would not provide him information about his deputies who were working with MDEA at the time, or about any MDEA investigation into the money problem. He said that after he heard rumors “on the street” last year that $2,480 was missing from MDEA, he launched his own investigation to ensure that the agent involved was not one of his deputies. Over the past few years, Smith has assigned three deputies to the MDEA.
Earlier this year, Smith filed a Freedom of Information request in Penobscot County Superior Court seeking the results and information from any investigation that the MDEA conducted regarding the money. That action is pending. Meanwhile, Smith said he conducted an internal investigation of his deputies and determined that none of them violated Washington County Sheriff’s Department policies.
“Initial inquiries made to the MDEA to both Commander Darrell Crandall and Director Roy McKinney revealed very little information surrounded by a cloud of secrecy,” Smith said Thursday.
He claims that his own investigation showed that no agents have been cleared or accused regarding the missing money and that no investigation about the funds ever was conducted by McKinney, Crandall or the Maine Attorney General’s Office.
“The Washington County Sheriff’s Office remains concerned that this kind of situation could happen within a law enforcement agency and even more concerned that the MDEA refused to investigate the matter and, rather, chose to cover it up,” Smith said Thursday.
Meanwhile, McKinney said he is very concerned about the strained relationship between Smith and the MDEA. “Washington County and all Maine counties are facing a serious drug threat,” he said. “It is so important that all law enforcement agencies work in a collaborative manner.”
Smith has been openly critical of the MDEA and McKinney for nearly three years. All of his accusations involve incidents that occurred years earlier and which the MDEA maintains have been dealt with and are closed.
Smith filed the Freedom of Information lawsuit on Jan. 6 without first notifying the county commissioners. This was less than a month after he issued a press release calling for McKinney’s removal.
“It’s a rogue agency that has a director that doesn’t want to deal with anything,” Smith told Bangor Daily News reporter Christopher Cousins in December. “The way I feel is that I hold my own inmates to a higher standard than Roy McKinney holds his agents.”
In 2008, Smith threatened to stop working with the agency after a DVD surfaced that showed an MDEA agent allegedly engaged in criminal behavior two years earlier. According to previous BDN 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 two years earlier over the contents of the video.