The Board of Commissioners of Oxford County has recommended that Sheriff Wayne Gallant be removed from office following a weeks-long investigation into allegations that he sexually harassed employees.
The county commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday afternoon to file a complaint against Gallant with Gov. Paul LePage, as revelations of sexual misconduct by powerful men continue to roil the country and fell prominent figures in politics, Hollywood and the media.
The complaint states that the veteran sheriff violated Maine law enforcement officers’ code of ethics, and it contains new allegations that Gallant sexually propositioned people who work for him.
“The sheriff has tolerated, engaged in, and fostered inappropriate sexual conduct within the department and workplace in violation of law and county policy on sexual harassment,” states the complaint signed by Oxford County’s three commissioners.
The commissioners have asked LePage to remove Gallant and appoint another sheriff to serve the remainder of his four-year term. The sheriff has denied that he sexually harassed employees.
The commissioner’s complaint to the governor states that, while in uniform, Gallant sent a female employee of another law enforcement organization photographs in which his genitals were exposed. It also says that the sheriff sent a subordinate officer multiple text messages with “indecent photographs” and solicitations of sex from the employee and his “female companion.”
These allegations mirror ones made against Gallant by an organizer for the union that represents employees in the sheriff’s office. But the complaint also refers to what seem to be other instances of Gallant allegedly making sexual requests of people who worked for him.
“The sheriff has sent lewd text messages to subordinate employees including in them requests or suggestions of sexual acts and containing images of himself and requesting and receiving images of the employees in indecent poses,” states the complaint signed by county commissioners Steven Merrill, Timothy Turner and David Duguay.
The alleged exchange of “indecent” photographs between Gallant and his employees has not been previously reported.
The commissioners’ decision followed hours of private discussion with a lawyer, Bryan Dench, they hired to investigate Gallant after he sent a lewd photograph to a woman and allegedly sexually harassed deputies.
Gallant, who is divorced and serving his third term as sheriff, has admitted to sending the photograph. But a lawyer for the sheriff reportedly denied he’d sexually harassed or threatened to fire any employee in connection with solicitations for sex.
Gallant and his attorney, Jim Martemucci, did not immediately respond to repeated requests for comment Tuesday.
The governor has the power to remove an elected sheriff from office following a complaint, due notice and a hearing, although how that process would work is murky.
LePage said Monday that Gallant should resign if the allegations against him are true, but Julie Rabinowitz, a spokeswoman for the governor, said in an email that his office cannot comment because the matter is being referred to LePage and constitutes a “legal proceeding.”
LePage’s communication staff on Tuesday said he had nothing to add.
Late in November, WGME-TV obtained a photograph of Gallant showing his genitals while in uniform. An organizer for the union that represents employees in the sheriff’s office then told the Portland Press Herald that Gallant had propositioned a male deputy and his girlfriend and then threatened to fire the deputy after his advances were rebuffed.
“I did nothing illegal,” Gallant told the Bangor Daily News following the allegations. “It was an adult thing that happened two years ago,” he added, referring to the photograph.
Gallant, a Vietnam veteran, was first elected in 2006 and previously worked as a police chief in Wilton and before that Rumford. He had been president of the Maine Sheriffs Association, but stepped down from that position after acknowledging he sent the lewd photograph.
The association’s acting president, Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
BDN writer Michael Shepherd contributed to this report.
Follow Jake Bleiberg on Twitter: @JZBleiberg.
Follow the Bangor Daily News on Facebook for the latest Maine news.