June 24, 2018
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Inquiry clears Penobscot County Sheriff of ethical misconduct in Bob Carlson incident

By Tom Walsh, BDN Staff

VASSALBORO, Maine — No ethical breaches of conduct.

That was the finding announced Thursday after an inquiry into how Penobscot County Sheriff Glenn Ross interacted with the Rev. Robert Carlson before Carlson’s suicide.

The Maine Sheriffs’ Association, responding to charges of ethical misconduct made by Washington County Sheriff Donnie Smith, last week convened a three-member board of inquiry to look into the professional propriety of Ross’ conduct when he informed Carlson that he was the subject of a criminal investigation. Ross is the president of the association, and Smith called for his dismissal or resignation.

“When we received Sheriff Smith’s e-mail expressing his concerns, we did everything we felt we were duty-bound to do in terms of addressing his concerns,” Kennebec County Sheriff Randall Liberty, the first vice president of the Maine Sheriffs’ Association, said Thursday afternoon. “The executive board met [Wednesday], and were presented with the findings of the inquiry, and we concurred that there was no ethical breach of conduct.”

The three-member board of inquiry included Sheriff Bill Clark of Hancock County, Sheriff Donna Dennison of Knox County and Sheriff Kevin Joyce of Cumberland County.

The board’s findings as reported to the association’s executive board were summarized by this statement: “It is the opinion of the Maine Sheriffs’ Association’s Board of Inquiry that Penobscot County Sheriff Glenn Ross committed no ethical breach of conduct by informing Robert Carlson of the letter being disseminated about his sexual conduct and the State Police investigation. Thus we recommend that Sheriff Glenn Ross remain as the Association’s President.”

Sheriff Smith resigned from the association earlier this week, citing his concerns about Ross’ interactions with Carlson, who was the subject of a sexual abuse investigation by the Maine State Police. Liberty said that resignation has been accepted.

In formally acknowledging Smith’s resignation, the sheriffs’ association told Smith in a letter that his concerns about Ross’ conduct were based on “a partial or speculative presentation of the facts.”

“We note your public commentary and dissatisfaction with the sheriff of Penobscot County, the state legislative delegation of Washington County, the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, the State Board of Corrections and the current Commissioner of Public Safety,” the letter reads in part.

“We acknowledge and defend the constitutional right of elected sheriffs to comment on issues of community concern, including the qualifications, integrity and job performance of other public officials. However, the MSA also values and enjoys the confidence of the citizens of Maine. To preserve that professional integrity, the MSA must assure [sic] that the responsibility and good faith exercise of its collective judgment, regarding the conduct of a member or any other elected or appointed official, not be based on a partial or speculative presentation of the facts.”

In reacting to the association’s comments Thursday, Smith said, “What does that mean, that he’s good and I’m bad?”

He later issued a press release stating, “I disagree with the MSA and do believe Sheriff Ross acted inappropriately. Quite frankly, I am deeply concerned that MSA investigated me because I questioned Sheriff Ross’s actions. I can deal with that as it is part of my job.”

He chastised the association for being “more concerned with protecting it’s president than recognizing and admitting that Sheriff Ross’s conduct was inappropriate. My real concern is now, and always has been the victims and the citizens trust in law enforcement.”

In a separate phone interview, Smith added that he considers the annual dues for what is now a 15-member organization “$500 I could have spent somewhere else.”

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