Washington County Sheriff Donnie Smith loses bid to oust opponents from GOP ballot

Posted April 07, 2014, at 5:53 p.m.
Last modified April 09, 2014, at 6:05 a.m.
 Washington County Sheriff Donnie Smith
Washington County Sheriff Donnie Smith Buy Photo

AUGUSTA, Maine — Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap ruled Monday that two Republicans bidding for the right to oppose Washington County Sheriff Donnie Smith in the November election should both have their names placed on the ballot for a June primary election.

Dunlap’s decision means that Barry Curtis of Cherryfield and Dale Earle of Calais will square off against each other in a Republican primary in June.

Smith, an independent, had challenged the ballot qualifications of both men.

“I didn’t think there was going to be any problem anyway,” said Earle after hearing the news Monday. Smith’s challenge was “not credible,” he argued.

“I was found to be more credible than Donnie Smith,” added Earle.

“The sheriff and his attorney did not get to pick Washington County’s next sheriff,” said Curtis.

“We are disappointed in the rulings by the secretary of state regarding Dale Earle and Barry Curtis,” Smith’s attorney, Don Brown of Brewer, said via email.

“The Maine Legislature enacted a law requiring candidates to truthfully demonstrate five years supervisory experience in order to qualify as a candidate for sheriff. … It seems logical, although the secretary of state disagrees, that the experience required would be in law enforcement,” added Brown.

Neither Earle nor Curtis provided that information in their filing documents, argued Brown.

Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn conducted hearings into both of Smith’s challenges on March 31. She subsequently issued reports to Dunlap, rejecting the challenges raised by Smith and recommending that the names of both Curtis and Earle be placed on the ballot for the June primary. Her recommendations were provided on Friday to Dunlap, who had until Monday to make a decision.

Earle and Curtis both testified about their supervisory experience at last week’s hearings, and other witnesses, including Smith, also testified.

Smith and the two Republicans were allowed to submit comments to Flynn, which were included in the documents that she provided to Dunlap. Only Smith — through Brown — chose to offer comments.

Brown’s rebuttal comments in the challenge to Earle included an affidavit from Smith’s office manager, Paula Johson-Rolfe, and copies of certain records that she referred to in the affidavit.

However, Flynn rejected the new evidence and indicated she did not consider it because it was not timely.

“The evidentiary record in this matter was closed at the conclusion of the hearing … and there is no legal basis for re-opening it now,” she wrote in her transmittal letter to Dunlap.

Smith had argued that state law requires candidates to have five years of supervisory experience in law enforcement although the candidate filing forms do not actually specify law enforcement.

Brown accused Curtis of lying. Curtis, too, thought the requirement applied to supervisory experience in law enforcement, argued Brown in his written comments dated April 3, “otherwise he would not have lied to boot strap his application and subsequent testimony at the hearing with law enforcement experience that he simply didn’t have.”

“I understand why the sheriff would be upset enough to lash out at me,” said Curtis via email. “He is upset he didn’t get his own way.”

Af for Earle, he “knowingly falsified his experience with the Washington County Sheriff’s Department,” wrote Brown, because in his filing Earle contended that he had six years of employment experience. At the hearing, Earle, who lost to Smith in the last election for sheriff, acknowledged that six years was an error; he served three years, he testified, and called the error in his filing documents an “honest mistake.”

“The law is intended to make sure that candidates are truthful in their submission to the Secretary of State, Division of Elections,” wrote Brown. “Mr. Earle was not truthful,” he added, “and should have been disqualified for providing false information under a sworn statement.”

Brown made a number of arguments against Curtis, too. One point he made was that Curtis did not properly fill out a state form — it was incomplete because he did not check a box. Yet, Brown acknowledged that Smith made the same mistake — failing to check a box.

Smith is seeking re-election to a third term as sheriff.

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