Oxford County Chief Deputy James Urquhart speaks Thursday to Oxford County Commissioners Timothy Turner of Buckfield, left, David Duguay of Byron, center, and Steven Merrill of Norway at the Oxford County building in South Paris. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

PARIS — Oxford County commissioners Thursday morning confirmed they intend to send a complaint to Gov. Janet Mills asking her to remove Sheriff Christopher Wainwright from his elected duties.

At a Jan. 16 meeting, after commissioners met in executive session with Wainwright and their attorney, Commissioner Tim Turner made a motion to send a complaint to the governor detailing specific examples of Wainwright’s past actions and seeking his removal because he “failed to faithfully and efficiently perform the duties of his office and improperly exercised and acted outside of his legal authority.”

Turner, a former state police trooper who lives in Buckfield, was joined in voting for the motion by Chairman David Duguay of Byron and Steven Merrill of Norway .

Oxford County Sheriff Christopher Wainwright File photo

Wainwright, who resides in Canton, has worked for the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office for more than 30 years, beginning at age 19 as a patrol deputy. He was first elected sheriff in 2018 and won reelection to another four-year term in 2022 by 344 votes over Oxford County Lt. Justin Brown, 13,521 to 13,177.

The commission has no authority to suspend or fire Wainwright, because Maine law dictates that only the governor has that power.

If a sheriff is removed, the governor appoints an interim one to serve until the next scheduled election.


Following an executive session Thursday, Duguay said commissioners are working with their attorney, Amy Dieterich of Skelton, Taintor & Abbott, on wording the request to the governor and plan to meet with her once more before holding a special meeting Feb. 7 to finalize that wording.

That meeting will be held in executive session.

Duguay said, “If everything goes right, we’ll be sending that letter to the governor,” which will detail “the nature and basis for seeking the removal of Sheriff Wainwright.”

Asked if the sheriff would remain on duty during this process and during the time the governor considers the request, Duguay said he would.

If Wainwright was a department head for the county, the commissioners said in a statement, he would have been suspended, investigated and possibly terminated by the commissioners following a hearing. Instead, “under our state Constitution and state law, the sheriff is an elected constitutional officer who works for the people, and can only be removed by the governor.”

Duguay said, “Unfortunately, that’s the way the statute is, the law is, it’s a constitutional office.”


In a statement in support of their decision, commissioners said that “over the course of Sheriff Wainwright’s tumultuous tenure, the Oxford County commissioners have spent an inordinate amount of time dealing with, mitigating and resolving mistakes made and crises generated by Sheriff Wainwright’s failure to efficiently and faithfully perform his duties and where he has acted outside of his lawful authority and contrary to Oxford County policies. Those mistakes and crises have cost Oxford County tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars and hundreds of hours that could have been better spent on projects that would benefit all of Oxford County’s citizens.”

And, they wrote, these issues “have also been a negative distraction from the duties of Oxford County government and have contributed toward morale, turnover and staffing challenges in the Oxford County Sheriff’s Department.”

According to commissioners, the vote was not one they took “lightly, hastily or without pursuing every other available option over the course of several years, but Sheriff Wainwright’s action have left the commissioners with no other option than to pursue his removal at this time.”

Commissioners emphasized that it is important to them “that the citizens and taxpayers of Oxford County know that no one is above the law, including its top elected law enforcement official.”

Wainwright was reprimanded in May 2023 after he asked a deputy to go easy on an acquaintance of Wainwright’s for a traffic citation the deputy issued, and then Wainwright overstated his authority when the deputy reported Wainwright’s reaction to his supervisor.

At the time, commissioners rebuked Wainwright for his actions. Calling it “a close call” and saying they had “no good choices.” They said it would be less disruptive to keep Wainwright on a short rope, rather than asking the governor to remove him from office.


Oxford County Commissioner David Duguay listens during a meeting of the commissioners Thursday at the Oxford County building in South Paris. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Commissioners discussed that matter with Wainwright for 2½ hours in a May executive session. It was the first time they heard a recorded phone call from November 2022 between Wainwright and Deputy Tyler Fournier, who had issued a citation to Audrey Coffin on a charge of consuming alcohol in a vehicle on a public way on Aug. 20, 2022, and a second deputy who no longer works for the department.

“I don’t work for the county commissioners, and I don’t work for the chief deputy (James Urquhart.) You all work for me,” Wainwright is heard saying on the recording. “And if I tell you not to write any (expletive) tickets ever again, you won’t write any tickets ever again. You know what I’m saying? That’s the sheriff. It’s a constitutional office.”

The commissioners said they were offended when they heard the recording.

“The sheriff clearly overstated his authority by telling those deputies that they ‘work at his discretion.’ Any termination of a county employee requires approval of the County Commissioners under Title 30-A, Section 501. The sheriff’s statements that he has ‘no boss’ and can ‘shred any ticket he wants’ are especially concerning. His tone and unprofessionalism demonstrated in those calls reveal his extremely poor judgment,” according to a statement released by the commission.

In their May statement, commissioners said another incident could result in sending such a request to the governor.

“He needs to gain a clearer perspective on workplace dynamics and set his pride aside so that he can regain the trust of the employees of his office,” commissioners said in the statement. “Based on our conversation in executive session this morning, we believe that he is capable of doing that. Until he proves us wrong, the commissioners reserve their right to send a complaint to the governor regarding these events. In the event that the sheriff falls short of his commitments, or engages in further conduct unbefitting of his office, the county commissioners will promptly revisit this matter.”


Wainwright offered an apology, admitting that he “overstated his authority as sheriff and using inappropriate language.” He admitted he violated Maine’s Law Enforcement Code of Ethics by asking the deputy to show favor to someone.

It was later revealed that Wainwright had appointed two school resource officers to area schools, and issued them badges and a firearms, even though their police certifications had expired.

Percy Turner, who covers the schools in Regional School Unit 10 based in Rumford, and Michael Kaspereen, who covers Hiram-based Maine School Administrative District 55, carried guns and badges, with the power to make arrests, despite not being certified after they retired from the Maine State Police.

The two were initially appointed by former Sheriff James Theriault in 2018. Wainwright continued to renew the contracts without checking their certification.

Wainwright called the error an oversight on recordkeeping, adding that Turner and Kaspereen were well qualified.

The complaint and request being prepared for the governor include Wainwright’s decision in 2020 and 2021 to dispose of dozens of firearms from the department’s evidence room without the knowledge of county officials and outside the financial scrutiny of those officials.


The guns were sold on credit, allowing the sheriff to purchase firearms for the county without a paper trail.

The Oxford County Administrator’s Office has no record of the sales, former County Administrator Donald Durrah said last year.

Commissioners have since changed the purchasing policy to prevent such a transaction from happening again.

On Wednesday, after Wainwright learned the commission’s motion to seek his removal was being reported, he issued a statement noting he was aware of what he called the commissioners’ procedural vote to file a complaint with the governor, but said he was “not aware of any new or recent developments that would merit this extraordinary action, but I am working to gather additional information.”

“My first priority,” he continued, “is and will continue to be the preservation of the integrity of the Office of Sheriff — restoration of the dignity of that office, in Oxford County — and the exclusive authority of the governor in this matter. In that light and with those priorities in mind, I will continue to carry out my duties and obligations to my office, Oxford County Sheriff’s Office employees, the institution of the Office of Sheriff, the electorate, and others in a dignified and professional manner.

He also said he hoped “that all parties involved respect the legal, political and constitutional implications of this development.”

On Thursday the Sun Journal reached out to Wainwright by email and phone for comment, without response.

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