The chief of one of the Passamaquoddy tribe’s two reservations has been deposed in a recall vote.

Chief Frederick Moore III of the Pleasant Point reservation, north of Eastport, lost a reservation-wide recall vote Monday, 280-54, according to the government there.

Vice Chief Vera Francis, who has been in bitter disputes with Moore for much of the past two years, has been elevated to chief under the reservation’s constitution. She will serve out the rest of Moore’s gubernatorial term, which ends in November 2018.

In a news release, Francis said she hoped the tribal council will now work together to do what was right for the community. “We have a lot of unifying and restorative work ahead of us and it will not be easy, but we are survivors and we will emerge even stronger,” she said.

The official release did not say why Moore had been removed.

Moore claims he was ousted to stop his attempt to confront rampant drug abuse within tribal government and operations. In an interview conducted via text messages, the ousted chief said there was a narcotics epidemic on the reservation that had led to “the deterioration of social order” and the erosion of the reservation’s economy and government services.

Moore said that in July, “acting on numerous complaints of property damage caused by heavy equipment operators,” he instituted across-the-board drug testing for all heavy equipment operators working for the reservation. He alleged that this triggered the resignation of several employees and disciplinary action against others for evading testing.

He said he had “understood that there would be significant implications associated with refusal to allow drug use/abuse within the workplace” but he persisted. The tribal council, he said, then overturned the drug testing policy and dismissed the entire human resources department.

He claimed the health clinic at the reservation – which has 722 residents – issued six times more prescription narcotics in the first quarter of 2016 “than Wal-Mart and Rite-Aid in Calais combined.”

Moore, who was elected in September 2014, was stripped of his administrative powers in the fall of 2015 by the reservation’s six-person tribal council after he was accused of financial improprieties. He denied those accusations.

The reservation was then effectively led by Vice Chief Francis, whom Moore tried to suspend on Sept. 11, 2015, by his own fiat, only to be overruled 11 days later by a majority of the tribal council, which said the move was unconstitutional.

In November 2015, Moore’s supporters tried to recall the vice chief and an allied tribal councilor, but were unable to collect enough valid signatures to send either matter to voters.

Moore says he reasserted his authority on June 1, prompted, he alleges, by substance abuse problems within the government and $1.2 million in improperly authorized expenditures made by the tribal council.

Colin Woodard can be contacted at:

[email protected]