FORT FAIRFIELD, Maine — Fort Fairfield Police Chief Shawn Newell has been placed on administrative leave, according to two Fort Fairfield Town Councilors.
On Thursday afternoon, Fort Fairfield Town Council Chairman Mitch Butler said it is a confidential personnel matter, but confirmed that Newell is on administrative leave.
“I cannot say anything. We have to wait for the investigation, if there is an investigation,” Butler said. “All I know, he is on administrative leave per counsel. I don’t know anything about it.”
Last week, Town Councilor Scott Smith also confirmed that Newell had been placed on administrative leave, but he did not have any information regarding the move.
“We were told the town manager and the Attorney General were the only ones who know about it,” Smith said.
The Maine Attorney General’s office did not comment on Newell’s status.
“The Attorney General’s Office cannot confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation into the Fort Fairfield matter,” Marc Malon, spokesperson for the Attorney General’s office, said last week.
Town Manager Andrea Powers declined to comment on Newell’s status.
“I am unable to comment on personnel matters,” Powers said last week. “They are confidential by Maine State Statute.”
Newell took over as police chief in March 2016 and he is listed in town documents as the police chief, a public safety officer and the animal control officer. It is not known if Newell is on leave from all three positions with the town or if his leave is paid.
Last year, Newell — along with the town of Fort Fairfield, two other police officers, the previous town manager and the police department — was named as a defendant in a civil rights case that is scheduled for a jury trial in September.
Currently, there is no information that indicates Newell’s administrative leave is connected to this case. And while Newell’s attorney, John Wall III, said he was representing him in a civil lawsuit pending in federal court, he could not confirm nor deny the connection.
“I am constrained by attorney-client privilege from responding to your queries,” Wall said in an email.
The 10-count civil lawsuit, filed in Maine District Court last August, by Jesse and Deanna Murchie of Fort Fairfield, alleges violations of the state’s Civil Rights Act, negligence, assault and battery and a pervasive discriminatory culture in the Fort Fairfield Police Department and the town.