An officer in the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office is the subject of an internal investigation after his wife filed an election complaint in the race for sheriff in a neighboring county and then used a fake name to tip off local media.

Kennebec County Sheriff Capt. Dennis Picard is on paid administrative leave pending the results of the internal investigation, said Kennebec County Administrator Robert Devlin.

Kennebec County Sheriff Randall Liberty wouldn’t specify what Picard is being investigated for. Liberty said internal investigations most often involve allegations of violations of department policy. Allegations of criminal activity are investigated by the Office of the Maine Attorney General.

“It’s a personnel matter,” Liberty said. “He’s on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the fact finding.”

Picard’s leave began Friday, the same day the Morning Sentinel reported that his wife filed a federal election complaint against Somerset County Chief Deputy Dale Lancaster in the race for Somerset County sheriff. Sharon Picard alleged Lancaster violated the federal Hatch Act by using his office to campaign; federal authorites determined the complaint had no merit.

Sharon Picard used the name Beth Downs to send notice of the complaint to Maine newspapers and television stations. She said last week in an email to a Morning Sentinel reporter that “Beth Downs is the name I have used when commenting on news articles … Many people use pseudonyms. I used that name to express my opinions without fear of retribution.”

Ana Galindo-Marrone, chief of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, charged with enforcing the Hatch Act, said last week that she will not pursue the complaint because Lancaster’s actions were not a violation of the law, which is specific to partisan political activity in federal office, or offices that take federal money. The act limits political activities of federal and some state employees.

The Somerset County charter requires non-partisan elections for sheriff, as well as county commissioner, treasurer and registrar of deeds.

Lancaster last week said if the special counsel had investigated, they would have learned there was no unethical behavior. Lancaster said he has worked hard to separate his campaign from his job.

Devlin said he was not sure what the specific allegations were that sparked the internal investigation of Picard. Devlin said the investigation is related to the election complaint, but that the complaint was not the sole focus of the investigation.

“That’s not the reason,” Devlin said.

Sgt. Alfred Morin of the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office of Professional Review is conducting the investigation, which could take up to 10 days.

“The findings will determine if there are any next steps,” Devlin said.

Dennis Picard, who last week acknowledged his friendship with Lancaster’s opponent in the race, Waterville Police Officer Kris McKenna, did not respond to a message left Monday on his cellphone.

Sharon Picard in an email asked for privacy for her family.

“In light of the ongoing internal investigation, my husband is not allowed and I am unwilling to speak to the media at this time,” she said.

McKenna did not return a phone message and an email seeking comment.

Lancaster said Monday that he received no official notification of Dennis Picard’s leave.

“I did know there was a possibility they might be looking into it,” Lancaster said.

He said he has not been informed of the focus of the investigation.

“This is an internal affairs matter concerning the Kennebec Sheriff’s Department,” Lancaster said. “I have not been made privy, nor would I want to be made privy, of any part of the investigation.”

Lancaster said he has not been told whether he’ll be asked to cooperate with the investigation and he has not tried to find out.

“I don’t know if they’ll be reaching out to me,” he said. “I seriously doubt it.”

Information gathered during the investigation will be turned over to Liberty and Chief Deputy Ryan Reardon, who will determine whether a reprimand is warranted.

“There are no preconceived notions,” Liberty said. “We’re in the fact-finding phase. Upon completion we’ll make a decision.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @CraigCrosby4


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.