Kennebec County’s top prosecutor will give Hallowell officials police reports from a sexual assault case against Police Chief Eric Nason that the state has deemed confidential.
The records detail a Maine State Police investigation into a 22-year-old female Hallowell police officer’s sexual assault allegation against the chief in June 2013. The case was closed that October with no charges filed against Nason, 48.
The state of Maine has denied repeated requests from the Kennebec Journal for police reports and other case accounts, saying they are confidential under a privacy exemption in Maine public records law.
In June, the newspaper sued the state for the documents in Kennebec County Superior Court, saying the public’s interest in a city official’s conduct and investigation outweighs privacy concerns.
Hallowell Mayor Mark Walker requested the same reports in a letter last month after the newspaper’s initial story on the allegation.
And on Thursday, Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney complied, sending a letter to Walker saying that while the records are confidential, she will give them to the city because those officials won’t publicize them, a decision the newspaper’s attorney criticized Friday.
In the city’s hands, case records would be shielded from the public’s view, as state law keeps most personnel information confidential. In an interview, Maloney said she thought the records would aid the city’s review of Nason’s conduct. “When it’s requested for that purpose, I wanted to be responsive,” she said.
But Matthew Warner, a Portland-based attorney for the Kennebec Journal, called Maloney’s decision inconsistent with the state’s refusal of the newspaper’s request, because “the public has as much of a right to these records” as the city does.
He said Maloney’s decision “to release the records to certain parties but not others” weakens the state’s argument for denying the Kennebec Journal the records.
Hallowell City Manager Michael Starn didn’t start an independent investigation and took no action against Nason after learning of the state police case against the chief last spring. But after recent press attention, the city has considered changing personnel policies.
This week, Starn said a private investigator will examine a second complaint of misconduct against the chief, made in a letter to Hallowell officials last month by a Rome woman who alleges that while dating Nason in the late 1990s, she found out that he had taken a pornographic photo of her while she slept that showed two other policemen posing in front of her.