May 27, 2018
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Down East jail controversy won’t soon be forgotten

By Renee Ordway, Special to the BDN

My, my, my such shenanigans in Washington County.

Memories are long Down East, and you just know that the story of the former Washington County Jail clerk and the “Santa Baby” novelty plunge bra will endure for at least a generation or two.

Perform a Google search on that bra and you get just five hits to the stores that sell it before the Washington County stories start popping up.

Karina Richardson was fired on Thursday after a 10-hour-long hearing during which county commissioners heard testimony about the alleged misappropriation of funds that are supposed to directly benefit the inmates.

A Waterville attorney who investigated the case when suspicions arose, said in his report that Richardson and her supervisor, Jail Administrator Capt. Robert Gross, were using some of those funds for their own benefit.

Gross remains on suspension until the commissioners reconvene to vote on his employment future.

Top-of-the-line cell phones and computers were purchased for their own use and personal cell phone bills were paid with money from the fund, Attorney Peter Marchesi alleged in his report.

Marchesi’s review of the records for the fund showed that between Nov. 1, 2011, and Nov. 19, 2012, the total expenditures that did not benefit inmates amounted to $7,272.

Surely two top jail officials accused of stealing from an inmate account is newsworthy and $7,272 is a decent chunk of change, but we all know what rocketed this story to the front page — the “Santa Baby” novelty plunge bra.

I suppose the four other sateen push-up bras, a velour bustier and a ruffle-trimmed leather motorcycle jacket that the report alleges Richardson also purchased with the inmates’ cash doesn’t hurt when it comes to a story’s staying power.

Add to that Richardson’s alleged comments when interviewed by Marchesi that the “clothing allowance” the inmates’ account funded actually did benefit the inmates directly.

It’s necessary for her to be dressed properly for work and her work directly benefits the inmates, Marchesi’s report stated.

Did I mention she also allegedly purchased a bridesmaid dress and an ankle-length strapless dress with the money?

I’m not completely clear whether just certain articles of the clothing on Marchesi’s list benefited the inmates or whether they all did.

While the bras, naughty or nice, added some sass to the story, the variety of cookbooks and crafting books that also were allegedly purchased by Richardson from the inmates’ fund added a dash of humor.

Apparently all that good old fashioned homemaking literature never made its way into the jail’s library. Richardson said she didn’t have the books at her home, but a couple of hours after her interview with Marchesi, she and her daughter were seen on jail surveillance tape lugging a box and a bagful of items into the jail and placing them in a closet.

Perhaps the inmates will get the opportunity to hone their crafting and cooking skills after all.

Richardson and Gross have also pointed their fingers at Washington County Sheriff Donnie Smith.

Smith denies any involvement.

Richardson told the media that Smith wasn’t going to get off scott free and warned that other people were “going down.”

She further insisted that she didn’t “do anything that wasn’t authorized by my supervisor. … I believe everything I’ve done I had permission to do.”

Now the Attorney General’s Office is on its way to investigate.

The folks selling the “Santa Baby” novelty plunge bra promise it will add some sizzle to the season.

Well, memories are long in Down East Maine and so are the winters, but this winter the folks who live there may just be able to cancel their cable because the real entertainment — the sizzle, so to speak — may well be unfolding on the front page of the daily newspaper.

Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

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