A court appeal brought by a former Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office captain who claimed he was fired for engaging in political speech, among other things, has been settled.

Dennis Picard, of Troy, had claimed he was terminated wrongfully as captain of the force, and brought a lawsuit, naming Kennebec County and two sheriff’s deputies as defendants.

Picard did not respond to an email sent Wednesday seeking comment on the appeal settlement. Previously he had referred questions to his attorney.

Kennebec County Administrator Robert Devlin said Wednesday he could not comment except to indicate the county was represented through its insurer.

Some documents in court show the parties agreed to keep certain items confidential.

Picard had alleged, “Defendants terminated Plaintiff, in whole or in part, in retaliation for engaging in political speech and/or for his association with his spouse, Sharon Picard, who engaged in political speech protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and/or because he opposed sexual harassment in the workplace in violation of the Maine Human Rights Act.”

Picard’s wife, Sharon Picard, had supported Kris McKenna in his political campaign for sheriff in 2014 in neighboring Somerset County, against Dale Lancaster, Somerset County’s chief deputy. Lancaster won the election.

The lawsuit says that in March of that year, then-Kennebec County Sheriff Randall Liberty “suggested to Mr. McKenna and Mr. Picard that consideration should be given to filing a Hatch Act complaint against Dale Lancaster” and shared that with the news media anonymously.

Sharon Picard filed the complaint, saying Lancaster was campaigning in uniform and using his county vehicle for campaign events. She also tipped off the media under the pseudonym Beth Downs.

Picard appealed his firing first in Waldo County Superior Court, but the civil action was removed to federal court almost immediately by the defendants.

The case had been progressing in federal court, where docket records indicate it was to be ready for trial in September.

But on June 7, a stipulation of dismissal was signed by Picard’s attorney, Maria Fox, and by Peter Marchesi, the attorney who represented the defendants through the Maine County Commissioners Association Self-Funded Risk Management Pool.

The stipulation was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine. No details were provided except to indicate the lawsuit was settled with prejudice — meaning the plaintiff cannot file the same claims again — and “without payment of costs by either party.”

Picard also maintained his rights under the First and Fourteenth amendments were violated. The lawsuit was brought against Sheriff Ryan Reardon in his prior capacity as chief deputy and Sgt. Alfred G. Morin, who works in the department’s Office of Professional Review and does the department’s internal investigations.

Marchesi, in a response filed with the court, denied the allegation on behalf of the county and the two officers and asked the court to rule in their favor and award them costs and attorneys fees.

Picard worked for the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office from July 15, 2013 to Nov. 21, 2014, first with the rank of lieutenant as assistant jail administrator, and then as captain. In January 2015, under a deal worked out through his former attorneys, Picard was rehired by the department as an officer with the court security division and primarily detailed to work at Waterville District Court.

Before joining Kennebec County, Picard had been a longtime officer with the Waterville Police Department.

Picard now is a full-time officer with the Capitol Police. He started in that post on June 1, 2015.

Last July, Fox said in an email, “(Picard) is grateful for the position and he has high regard for his department and colleagues there. However, it is a position much lower in rank and one that substantially limits his contributions in the law enforcement field given his training, experience and professional aspirations. He hopes the lawsuit will help clear his name and restore his career at the law enforcement captain level.”

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams


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