Governor appoints former Maine Supreme Judicial Court Justice Donald G. Alexander as Hearing Officer
Governor Janet Mills today signed an Executive Order establishing a formal process to consider a complaint from the Oxford County Commission against the Oxford County Sheriff.
The complaint, formally delivered to the Governor on Wednesday, requests that the Governor remove the Sheriff from office. Under the Maine Constitution, only the Governor may remove an elected sheriff from office “upon complaint, due notice and hearing” if she finds the sheriff “is not faithfully or efficiently performing any duty imposed on the sheriff by law.”
The Executive Order signed by the Governor appoints highly respected former Maine Supreme Judicial Court Justice Donald G. Alexander as Hearing Officer to oversee a hearing on the complaint. At the time of his retirement from the Maine Supreme Judicial Court in 2020, Alexander was the longest-serving active justice in Maine history.
The Executive Order also establishes:
- that the sheriff must be provided an opportunity to submit a written answer to the complaint;
- that the Hearing Officer, after conferring with both parties, will issue a procedural order governing the hearing process that will provide appropriate protection to the rights and interests of the parties; and
- that the Hearing Officer will provide a written report to the Governor and make any recommendation he deems appropriate based on the evidence presented. The Hearing Officer’s recommendation is advisory and the Governor retains final decision-making authority, consistent with the Maine Constitution.
“I take this Constitutional responsibility very seriously,” said Governor Janet Mills. “I thank former Justice Alexander for his willingness to serve as Hearing Officer and to conduct an objective and impartial process.”
“The Governor has entrusted me with significant responsibility to give the parties a full and fair hearing, develop the facts, and prepare a thorough report to provide the information the Governor needs to fulfil her Constitutional responsibility,” said former Justice Donald G. Alexander. “I look forward to meeting with the parties and working cooperatively to have a hearing and then prepare an advisory report to the Governor reasonably promptly.”
The Executive Order also states that if the Hearing Officer determines that the evidence presented constitutes probable cause of criminal activity, he shall make such reports as he deems appropriate to law enforcement for further investigation. Additionally, if the Hearing Officer determines that the evidence presented raises substantial questions about the professional conduct of any member of law enforcement, he shall make such reports as he deems appropriate to the Maine Criminal Justice Academy.
The Executive Order states that the hearing is a public proceeding, subject to longstanding exceptions in Maine statute, and that the Hearing Officer’s report will become public upon the announcement of the Governor’s decision.
The Governor’s Office will announce public proceedings once determined by the Hearing Officer.