A government official at the Passamaquoddy tribe’s Pleasant Point reservation said Thursday that the chief had been removed from power for self-enrichment and the abuse of power.

Chris S. Altvater, the reservation’s transportation and public works director, was responding to assertions last week by Frederick Moore III that he had been ousted to put an end to his effort to stamp out what he said was rampant substance abuse by government employees, including elected officials.

Moore was removed from office after losing a Nov. 7 reservation-wide recall vote 280-54, a ratio of more than 5 to 1. Vice Chief Vera Francis, who had been locked in bitter disputes with Moore for much of the past two years, was elevated to chief as per reservation law.

“I helped spearhead the recall effort against him,” Altvater said. “I looked at it as a fight between dictatorship and democracy.”

He said he had supported Moore after he was elected chief of the reservation, which is north of Eastport at the easternmost end of Maine, in September 2014. Their relationship soured, he said, after Moore began concentrating power by removing the longstanding housing director and other staff, and allegedly withholding services from tribal members who didn’t support him politically.

Altvater alleged that Moore had compelled his department to buy one of his trucks and a lawnmower at prices that far exceeded what they were worth and to do 160 hours of work on his properties. He said the breaking point came when, after members of his staff passed drug tests, Moore demanded they be re-tested.

“I said absolutely not – employees have rights too,” Altvater said. “I think he wanted to go down that road as a way to get me not to comply with his directives so he could fire me.” He said Moore then did just that, but that he refused to go unless fired by the tribal council, and remained on the job.

He also denied Moore’s allegations that there was rampant drug abuse among government employees, or that there had been numerous instances of transportation department workers damaging property. “Unfortunately, there is not one thing accurate he conveyed,” Altvater said.

Reached by telephone, Moore stood by his assertions. “I told friends and family before I ran for office that I wouldn’t make it two years because it was inevitable that I would take a position on the drug epidemic and that I would be overwhelmingly opposed,” he said. “But it’s killing our people.”

The ousted chief said between 2010 and 2014, when he took office, the reservation had been operating “under a form of controlled anarchy where none of the rules were followed.”

“I can see how having a management team that meets periodically throughout the day to make sure policies are followed could be seen as dictatorial,” Moore added. “However, it’s the difference between having no rules or simply following the rules as enacted.”

He characterized reservation politics as “horribly corrosive” and Altvater’s allegations against him as “gobbledygook.”

Moore was stripped of his administrative powers in October 2015 by the reservation’s six-person tribal council after he was accused of financial improprieties. He denied the accusations.

The reservation was effectively led by Vice Chief Francis, whom Moore had himself attempted to suspend in 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.

Moore said this week that he reasserted his authority on June 1 of this year, prompted, he alleges, by the substance abuse problems within the government and $1.2 million in unauthorized expenditures.

Francis has not responded to media inquiries since Moore’s ouster was made public last week.

With his ouster, Francis is now chief and will serve out Moore’s term, which ends in 2018. Altvater said a new vice chief will be elected at an election to be held in early December.

Colin Woodard can be contacted at:

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