MDI towns to share police chief while Bar Harbor chief placed on leave

Posted Nov. 06, 2013, at 5:37 p.m.
Last modified Nov. 06, 2013, at 6:41 p.m.
James Willis Jr.
Contributed photo
James Willis Jr.

MOUNT DESERT, Maine — James Willis, the local police chief, will lend a hand to the Bar Harbor Police Department while the chief there remains on administrative leave, officials in the two towns announced Wednesday.

The elected boards of the two neighboring towns each voted Monday on an agreement to have Willis serve temporarily as chief of both departments while Nate Young, Bar Harbor’s police chief, is unavailable.

Young was placed on administrative leave on Oct. 1, for reasons that have not been disclosed by Bar Harbor officials because of the confidential nature of personnel matters. Young is expected to remain on leave pending the outcome of an investigation being conducted by Jon Goodman, a lawyer and former internal investigator for the Portland Police Department, on behalf of Bar Harbor’s legal counsel, law firm Bernstein Shur.

Young has declined to comment on his situation.

Dana Reed, Bar Harbor’s town manager, said Wednesday that Young is expected to remain on leave for “several more weeks,” and the Bar Harbor town council wanted to have a qualified person filling in as acting chief.

“We felt it would be good to have an experienced [police] chief serve in [Young’s] absence.”

Willis said Wednesday that, while he is being paid more money than he would be under normal circumstances, his main interest in serving as acting chief in Bar Harbor is to “help out a neighbor.” He said he could not recall offhand what the pay difference might be.

Willis said he might have felt differently about it if the idea had come up in July or August — when MDI’s summer tourist season is in full swing — but that helping to fill in this time of year seems more feasible. Willis has been Mount Desert’s police chief for 10 years and before that worked as a lieutenant for the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department and as a victim witness advocate in the Hancock County District Attorney’s Office.

“The two town managers asked me to consider it,” Willis said. “I’ve been over there [at the Bar Harbor PD] a lot the past couple of days. They’re teaching me how they do things.”

Willis added he has no expectations about how long the arrangement might last.

“I really don’t know,” he said. “It’s going to be day-to-day.”

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