Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant resigned Wednesday in the face of mounting allegations of sexual harassment and the prospect of being removed from office.
The veteran sheriff stepped down one day after the commissioners of Oxford County requested that Gov. Paul LePage remove Gallant, who, they said in a formal complaint, “tolerated, engaged in, and fostered inappropriate sexual conduct within the department.”
Gallant offered his immediate resignation in a two sentence letter to the governor and county commissioners.
“It is with mixed emotion that I hereby tender my resignation,” Gallant wrote in the letter, which was provided the Bangor Daily News by County Administrator Scott Cole. “It was an honor and a privilege to serve the citizens of Oxford County.”
With his resignation, Gallant becomes the first prominent Mainer to face public consequences for alleged sexual misconduct amid the recent surge of accusations that has toppled prominent figures in politics, Hollywood and the media.
LePage will name a replacement to serve out the remainder of Gallant’s four-year term, which expires at the end of 2018. Until that happens, Chief Deputy Hart Daley will serve as acting sheriff, Cole said.
Gallant, who was in his third term as sheriff, was elected as a Democrat. Maine law states that when a county office is vacated the governor “shall” choose a replacement from recommendations from the county committee of the party to which the last officeholder belonged.
“The only comment I’d have is that there was no deal and he resigned on his own,” Oxford COunty Commissioner David Duguay told the Bangor Daily News. “Otherwise, it is good for [Oxford County] with respect to moving forward with the [Oxford County Sheriff’s office].”
[Oxford County officials to ask LePage to remove sheriff from office]
The accusations against Gallant first surfaced in late November, when WGME-TV obtained a photograph of the sheriff 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.
Gallant admitted to sending the lewd photograph, but his lawyer reportedly denied that the sheriff had sexually harassed or threatened to fire any employee in connection with solicitations for sex.
Gallant and his attorney, Jim Martemucci, have not responded to repeated requests for comment this week.
The sheriff “made [the] decision [to resign] after long discussions with his family, his priest and after consulting with me,” Martemucci told Maine Public, adding that Gallant “hopes this matter is now at an end.”
The allegations against Gallant gained institutional force Tuesday, when, following a weeks-long investigation, Oxford County’s three commissioners issued a complaint requesting that LePage remove him from office.
The complaint made allegations that closely paralleled the public charges against Gallant and also stated that the sheriff had requested and exchanged “indecent” photographs with employees.
“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 commissioners Duguay Steven Merrill and Timothy Turner.
A divorcee and a Vietnam veteran, Gallant 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.
Ray Cote, the union organizer who brought forward some of the allegations against Gallant, declined to comment Wednesday. LePage’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Follow Jake Bleiberg on Twitter: @JZBleiberg.
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