The Hancock County commissioners voted 2-1 Tuesday against a measure asking Hancock County Sheriff Scott Kane to resign, but unanimously backed a resolution condemning his actions.
Tuesday’s votes came three weeks after the Bangor Daily News reported that Kane prohibited a public health nonprofit from providing opioid recovery coaches to Hancock County Jail inmates because it issued a statement in support of Black Lives Matter.
Commissioner John Wombacher, who introduced the resolution calling for Kane to resign and is the lone Democratic county commissioner, cast the only vote in support of that measure. Commissioners William Clark and Paul Paradis did not defend Kane’s actions or his comments about Black Lives Matter, but said the sheriff’s actions did not meet the standard for pressuring Kane to resign or for his removal by the governor.
They later joined Wombacher in supporting the resolution to condemn Kane’s actions, which said that Kane’s failure to transition from Healthy Acadia to another group that left a seven-month gap in recovery coaching was “unacceptable.”
That letter also asked that Kane choose service agencies for the prison based on their merit rather than their “philosophical beliefs.”
Kane, a Republican from Brooksville who has held office since 2015, drew criticism after barring Healthy Acadia from helping jail inmates fighting substance use disorder last June after the group issued a statement in support of Black Lives Matter. Kane referred to Black Lives Matter as a “terrorist group” that advocates overthrowing the government and killing police officers.
Black Lives Matter has long said it does not support violence, and that it aims to end racial bias in policing across the U.S.
After the BDN reported on Kane’s actions in late January, Healthy Acadia signed a new agreement to provide recovery coaching in the jail on Feb. 5, and the group’s opioid recovery coaches have since started working again with Hancock County Jail inmates.
By not allowing vital addiction-related services for inmates, Kane had violated his “obligation” to inmates, Wombacher said. Noting that Healthy Acadia was again providing services at the jail after a seven-month hiatus, he said the whole episode was completely unnecessary.
He also condemned Kane for not informing the county commissioners that he had terminated the Healthy Acadia contract, though he did note that Clark, the commission chair and Kane’s predecessor as county sheriff, had been notified.
“It’s an embarrassment that the full commission was not addressed before the contract ended,” Wombacher said.
But Clark and Paradis were not convinced Kane needed to resign. Paradis said Kane was an elected official, and he didn’t feel comfortable pressuring him to step down. Clark said that Kane’s actions did not meet the standard for a sheriff’s removal by the governor.
Residents on both sides of the issue spoke at Tuesday’s meeting, though more supporters of the resolution asking Kane to resign spoke than opponents. Some who condemned Kane’s actions and statements said they did not support him resigning.
Jacques Newell Taylor, a Bar Harbor business owner, called Kane’s actions an abuse of power that could create a dangerous culture for officers in his department.
“The fact that he made such an impulsive decision to punish an organization that was serving people is very problematic and is very scary to me,” said Taylor, who noted he was African-American.
Jared Gordon of Blue Hill said that Kane had long worked to help those with substance use disorder. He was one of a few Kane supporters to also bring up the sheriff’s past involvement with DARE, the anti-drug school program.
“I can’t think of a better guy to be representing our community,” Gordon said. “I’d support the sheriff in every way I could.”
The meeting quickly filled up, with about 90 people in the Zoom session a few minutes before it began.
Kane on Tuesday acknowledged the message from the commissioners conveying disappointment with his actions and thanked those who spoke during the public comment section of the meeting — both in support and opposition of the resolution — saying that they had been heard.
In a statement on Feb. 2, Kane said that barring Healthy Acadia from working with county jail inmates was an “emotional reaction” to Black Lives Matter statements.
“I could have handled the situation regarding recovery coaches from Healthy Acadia differently,” Kane said.
Kane faced a Republican opponent in the 2014 primary, Alan Brown, whom he narrowly defeated by 171 votes, but did not have an opponent in the 2014 general election. He did not face an opponent when he sought reelection in 2018.