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Maine Gov. Mills declines to remove embattled sheriff from office

Democratic Maine Gov. Janet Mills declined Monday to remove Oxford County Sheriff Christopher Wainwright amid accusations of improper conduct.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills on Monday declined to take the rare step of removing a sheriff accused of improprieties including the transfer of guns from an evidence locker to a gun dealer without proper documentation.

Oxford County Sheriff Christopher Wainwright was also accused of failing to ensure proper certifications were in place for school resource officers and of urging a deputy to go easy on someone stopped for a traffic infraction.

Mills said she concluded the evidence didn't constitute the high hurdle of "extraordinary circumstances" necessary for removing a sheriff from office for the first time since 1926.

"My decision here should not be viewed as a vindication of Sheriff Wainwright," she wrote. "The hearing record shows that he has made mistakes and acted intemperately on occasion."

Oxford County commissioners in February asked Mills to remove Wainwright. Under the Maine Constitution, the governor is the only person who can remove sheriffs, who are elected.

In her decision, Mills concluded the school resource officer paperwork issue dated back to the previous sheriff and that there was no evidence that Wainwright benefited personally from the gun transaction.

She also concluded that his underlying request for a deputy to go easy on an acquaintance whose sister was suffering from cancer was not unlawful or unethical. She said the sheriff's reaction to a deputy questioning his intervention — cursing and chastising the deputy — was wrong but didn't constitute a pattern of conduct.

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