ALFRED — York County District Attorney Kathryn Slattery has referred a 2011 civil case that involved allegations of strong-arm tactics by two sheriff’s deputies on behalf of a retired Portland detective to the Maine Attorney General’s Office.

The case had been referred to Slattery by York County commissioners in early August.

“It is apparent that further inquiry should be made into the allegations,” said Slattery in a prepared statement. “In view of that, I have referred the matter to the Investigation Division of the Attorney General’s Office. They are an independent agency and therefore without the inherent conflict of interest that would exist if the York County District Attorney were to undertake the inquiry.”

But an attorney who represents one of the deputies said the lawsuit was unfounded and that her client’s reputation has become a political casualty of election-year infighting among York County officials.

“Bill Vachon and Michael Hayes are collateral damage in a political circus,” said Amy Fairfield, who represents Hayes and said there is evidence that the complaint against them is largely fabricated. “This whole (civil) complaint was made public through the media when it was filed last August. If it was such a concern, why wouldn’t (the commissioners) take it up then? You wait until two months before the sheriff’s election that is contested?”

The 2011 allegations resulted in a federal civil suit against the county in 2017. It was settled by the insurer, the Maine County Commissioners Association Self-Funded Risk Management Pool, in June. The settlement includes a $39,575 payment to the plaintiff, referred to in court documents only as “John Doe” and a $27,924 to the plaintiff’s law firm, both “made without admission of liability which was and is expressly denied,” according to a settlement document.

“Although the allegations were denied in the court case, they were concerning,” York County Commissioners said in a statement released by County Manager Greg Zinser on Aug. 3. That concern prompted commissioners to refer the matter to the York County District Attorney.

The civil suit had claimed physical detention, kidnapping and illegal arrest in 2011 by York County Sheriff’s Office Detective Sgt. Michael Hayes; Deputy Wilfred Vachon, who left the agency to work elsewhere in 2016, and former Portland Police Officer Joseph Fagone.

The suit stemmed from an $850 charge Fagone’s daughter had allegedly wanted refunded following a limousine incident at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, according to documents filed by plaintiffs John Doe and his wife Jane Doe, who had provided the limousine service.

According to the plaintiffs, Hayes and Vachon, on behalf of Fagone, went to the Buxton home of John and Jane Doe on Sept. 1, 2011, where deputies allegedly threw him to the floor, handcuffed him, put him in a cruiser and then allegedly tried to pressure him into refunding the money. When John Doe’s wife arrived home, the plaintiffs alleged that Hayes instructed the couple to go to a bank and get the money. The couple alleged they were pressured into signing a release saying no force was used. Instead of going to a bank, they went to a relative’s home and stayed there for several days.

It is unclear whether an internal investigation ensued following the alleged 2011 incident.

King, now York County sheriff, was a major with the department at the time. Both King and Slattery are seeking re-election in November.

Fairfield said that throughout the commissioners’ recent scrutiny of the case, no one has contacted her or her client to ask him about what happened. When Fairfield attempted to speak with Slattery directly and offer her client’s cooperation, Fairfield said she was rebuffed.

Sheriff’s Office policies indicate decisions to commence internal investigations are made by the chief deputy, who was Mat Baker at the time. He has since passed away. The sheriff at the time was Maurice Ouellette, who is retired.

York County Commission Chairman Sallie Chandler in an August interview said incidents alleged in the suit stretch back years. She said it had been difficult for commissioners to “get a whole picture of whose memory is accurate and exactly how it should have been handled.”

Chandler said the decision to settle the case came from the risk pool and the attorney.

“We don’t have any input into how they settle cases,” she said.

“The claim was a result of a law enforcement action that occurred seven years ago,” said King in a statement issued in August. “We must keep in mind that in lawsuits, a notice of claim is a one-sided version of events. The county risk pool was faced with an economic decision –— fight the claim or settle it, saving the risk pool (and ultimately taxpayers) money. The decision was made to settle the lawsuit.”

Journal Tibune Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]

Press Herald Staff Writer Matt Byrne, who contributed to this report, can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MattByrnePPH

 

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