The Democratic primary for York County sheriff pits incumbent Maurice Ouellette, who has been with the sheriff’s department for 12 years, against Paul Main, who worked for the department in the 1980s and 1990s.

The sheriff oversees the county jail, which has about 200 inmates, patrol deputies serving the 14 towns that have no police departments, and the transport of inmates to court.

Ouellette is finishing his first four-year term as sheriff after serving as chief deputy. Main is making his first run for elective office, seeking to lead the department where his law enforcement career began.

Voters will choose the Democratic candidates June 8. The winner will face Republican Craig Gagne on Nov. 2.

Main is challenging the incumbent’s record and offering a return to the way the department was run in the 1980s and 1990s, when he worked as a corrections officer, a patrol officer, a detective and a reserve officer.

Main says he would develop a cadre of reserve officers, much like the reserve division he helped professionalize when he was with the department.

“The thing that motivates me most of all is that I see the tremendous waste that is going on. Overtime is the first option” to deal with staffing issues, but shouldn’t be, he said. “It’s just like managing a business. You’ve got to provide a service as cheap as possible in order to exist because of the tax dollars involved.”

The department has relied on overtime because it has had more severe cutbacks in deputies than any other Maine county, he said.

Main also would like to organize an “Are you OK?” initiative, in which volunteers make daily calls to people who sign up for the service.

Regarding the jail, he criticizes Ouellette for a system that allowed a female inmate to remain in jail for 103 days after a judge had ordered her released on personal recognizance. The ensuing lawsuit, he said, represents a huge liability for the county.

Main also says the jail should not contract for food services, but should grow and prepare some of its own food, giving inmates a sense of satisfaction and job skills.

The jail also should do a better job with the mentally ill so incarceration doesn’t worsen their mental health, he said.

Main hasn’t spent his entire career in law enforcement. In the late 1980s, he left the sheriff’s department to work as a guitarist, singer and songwriter in Nashville, playing Western swing.

Ouellette says he is running on his record, as a career law enforcement professional and as someone who has helped the department become more professional.

He started as a Sanford police officer almost 40 years ago and worked for the Maine State Police for 22 years, serving as a homicide detective for 10 years. He also supervised a team of drug agents and coordinated marijuana eradication across the state.

Ouellette took over the sheriff’s department after serving as chief deputy. He says the department works closely with local police departments and the state police.

The county hosts a forensic crime lab that is open to agencies throughout the county. It also pulled together a regional SWAT team with Sanford police when Ouellette was chief deputy in 2006. Seven other departments send officers to train and participate with the team.

Ouellette concedes that the department endured deep cuts as the county tried to fix its budget. The state takeover of county jails cut York County’s revenue, as did a drop in real estate transactions.

The department is getting back five of the seven officer positions that were cut last year. Ouellette says that should help the department return to proactive policing and crime prevention.

“I will never have anything bad to say about a deputy that stops at a Little League game, or a basketball or football game,” he said. “That’s where people interact.”

State Department of Corrections inspectors gave the jail top marks, Ouellette said.

Ouellette said he could not comment on the woman who was held in jail when she was supposed to be released, because of the ongoing court case. He said the facts will show that the jail’s staff did what it was supposed to do.

 

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

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