AUGUSTA — The Kennebec County Democratic Committee is expected to hold a special meeting next week to consider whether to send an additional name to Gov. Paul LePage for possible appointment to the Kennebec County sheriff’s vacancy.

That announcement comes as Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap’s office continues to review the legality of the LePage’s appointment last week of Ken Mason to the sheriff’s post. LePage, a Republican, announced his selection of Mason after county Democrats ignored his requests for more candidates other than the single one they offered: interim Kennebec County Sheriff Ryan Reardon.

The secretary of state is obliged to review gubernatorial appointments to ensure they comply with state law. Kristen Muszynksi, spokeswoman for Dunlap, a Democrat, said Tuesday that no decision from Dunlap was expected immediately.

The Kennebec County Democratic Committee will meet 6:30 p.m. March 2 at the Kennebec County Government Building at 125 State St.

Meanwhile, Mason said Tuesday that the committee “is putting politics above public safety.” He said he received notification of the committee meeting next week and he does not plan to attend.

Kennebec County officials contend that the appointment of Mason last week was not legal, as his name was not proffered by the county Democratic Committee, although Mason had submitted his name to be considered in the nominating process in October.

LePage made the appointment of Mason, chief deputy in the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, after the county Democratic committee declined to offer additional names. If the county committee opts to send an additional name or names, the committee is expected to vote immediately on whose names will be submitted.

Adrienne Bennett, spokeswoman for LePage, said Tuesday she had no updates on Mason’s appointment by the governor.

The last time the county Democrats met to consider providing additional names to the governor, the discussion centered entirely on politics and not at all on public safety, according to Mason.

“It was all about the committee’s right to send one name,” he said.

In October, the county Democratic committee met to decide on names to forward to the governor’s office for appointment to fill two positions – the District 1 Kennebec County commissioner’s seat and that of the Kennebec County sheriff, which became vacant when LePage appointed then-Sheriff Randall Liberty, a Democrat, to be warden of the Maine State Prison in Warren.

Two candidates had put forward their names for consideration for the sheriff’s seat – Reardon, of Oakland, and Mason, of Readfield.

In a letter he sent in early January, LePage said county Democratic Party Chairwoman Rita Moran had refused to supply a second name when asked for one.

“While I understand your Committee’s desire to make the appointment, yourself, the constitutional appointment power and the statutorily granted choice of recommendations both rest in the Governor,” he wrote. “I doubt you believe the Legislature intended the law to be manipulated in this way. Your refusal to fulfill your statutory obligation out of political maneuvering fails to serve the interests of Kennebec County citizens and exemplifies the reason for my frustration and disappointment with party politics. Please be advised that I will move forward as I deem appropriate should you continue to disregard the interests of the citizens of Kennebec County.”

Moran has said she’s never refused the governor’s request; she had explained to a member of LePage’s staff that the authority to nominate rests with the county committee, and she could not simply send another name.

The county committee reaffirmed its decision to forward a single name to the governor for consideration at a special meeting earlier this month, and a week later, LePage announced his appointment of Mason.

Attorney General Janet Mills has been asked by LePage’s former chief counsel to give advice on the provision in Maine law that covers gubernatorial appointments.

“Before providing a detailed response,” Mills wrote, “I would like to know the Committee’s intentions. … While the intent of the statute is not entirely clear, the use of the words ‘choose’ and ‘recommendations’ seem to imply that if the Committee submits its recommendations, the names of more than one qualified individual should be submitted.”

Mills, a Democrat, has not yet given her opinion.

Jessica Lowell can be contacted at 621-5632 or at:

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