AUGUSTA — While Gov. Paul LePage might act on making an appointment to fill the vacant Kennebec County Commission seat in the near future, it’s not clear that the stalemate between him and the Kennebec County Democratic Committee over the sheriff appointment has been broken.

Adrienne Bennett, press secretary to LePage, said nothing new has happened in the appointment of a sheriff.

In October, the county Democratic Party met to nominate candidates to be considered for appointment to fill two county-level vacancies created by the death of District 1 County Commissioner Beverly Daggett and the appointment by LePage of then-Sheriff Randall Liberty to be warden of the Maine State Prison in Warren. In all, three names were forwarded — two for the county commission from a field of three candidates, and one for sheriff from a field of two.

At the time, Bennett had said LePage was looking for additional names to consider.

In a letter delivered Monday to Kennebec County Democratic Chairwoman Rita Moran, LePage said, “After speaking with members of my staff, it appears that your committee and I are at somewhat of a standoff with regard to the above referenced matter (the sheriff’s vacancy). While I can appreciate your political gamesmanship, I hope we can move past this standoff and move forward with the business of governing.”

LePage said Moran has refused a request to supply a second name for the sheriff’s vacancy when asked for one.

“While I understand your Committee’s desire to make the appointment, yourself, the constitutional appointment power and the statutorily granted choice of recommendations both rest in the Governor,” he wrote. “I doubt you believe the Legislature intended the law to be manipulated in this way. Your refusal to fulfill your statutory obligation out of political maneuvering fails to serve the interests of Kennebec County citizens and exemplifies the reason for my frustration and disappointment with party politics.

“Please be advised that I will move forward as I deem appropriate should you continue to disregard the interests of the citizens of Kennebec County.”

While the state law that governs these kinds of appointments says the governor shall choose from any recommendations submitted by a county committee, the law does not enumerate how many candidates must be considered.

For her part, Moran said she has never refused the governor’s request for an additional name.

She said she spoke to Scott VanOrman in the governor’s office in December, who asked for a second name.

Moran said she explained she could not simply provide a second name, as the authority to nominate rests with the committee, and the committee would not meet until Jan. 21. She followed that conversation with an email requesting that VanOrman clarify what alternatives she should bring to the county Democratic Committee and what the consequences would be for both appointments if the Democrats’ position failed to change.

Moran said this week that she never received a reply.

“What I refused to do was provide another name without the county committee behind it,” she said.

In October, the county Democratic Committee considered Augusta City Councilor Pat Paradis, former Rep. Patsy Crockett and Carl Pease for commissioner and interim Kennebec County Sheriff Ryan Reardon and Ken Mason, chief deputy in the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, for sheriff. In both cases, the committee opted to drop the lowest vote-getter, leaving only a single candidate for the sheriff’s position.

If a commissioner is appointed, that person will serve until the end of this year, completing Daggett’s term.

If a sheriff is appointed, that person also would serve until the end of this year. A special election in November will decide who will fill the office for the balance of Liberty’s term, which ends in 2018.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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