Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant made unwanted solicitations for sex to at least two of his employees, said an official for the union that represents 23 sworn officers.

Ray Cote, business agent for Teamsters Local 340, said he received the reports directly from the employees, whom he declined to name. In one instance, Gallant sent multiple sexually explicit photographs of himself to a male deputy’s girlfriend and requested that Gallant, the deputy and the woman have sex, Cote said. When the employee rebuffed the advances, Gallant threatened his job, Cote said.

In another instance, Gallant typed a message on a cellphone indicating he wanted to perform oral sex on a male employee, and then showed the person what he typed, Cote said.

Copies of four of the images sent to the deputy’s girlfriend, which were obtained by the Portland Press Herald, show Gallant displaying his genitalia. His face is visible in three of the images, including one in which Gallant is in uniform.

Gallant admitted Tuesday to a TV news station that he had sent a sexually explicit photograph several years ago to a woman he did not identify, and announced he was resigning as president of the Maine Sheriff’s Association.

He said Tuesday night during a county budget meeting that he did nothing illegal. “It was an adult thing that happened two years ago,” he told the Bangor Daily News.

Gallant did not respond to messages left Tuesday night on his office telephone and cellphone, and did not respond to repeated requests for comment Wednesday.

The union’s accounts about Gallant come on the heels of a national outpouring of allegations of sexual misconduct against powerful men at the highest levels of the media, business, entertainment and political worlds.

Cote said Oxford County, through its attorney, has been investigating the claims for several weeks, after a sheriff’s employee complained to the county. He said the county was preparing to interview members of the sheriff’s office about what they knew or experienced, but county officials told Cote he could not be present for the interviews, even though he represents the union members in employment matters.

“I insisted if they were going to do any investigating, as to bargaining unit members, I wanted to be present, and they denied that request,” Cote said.

The county attorney, Bryan Dench, would not comment on whether he was conducting an investigation into Gallant’s behavior, whether commissioners had sought advice on possibly removing him, or whether Cote’s allegations are true.

“The law with regard to county government puts the sheriff as an elected constitutional officer in the position of being in charge of the sheriff’s department without it being direct control or oversight by the county commissioners except in matters of finance,” Dench said. “The county commissioners really don’t have a whole lot of power or authority over the conduct of a sheriff, so their position is very limited with regard to something like this, but they do have the authority … to make a referral to the governor. Ultimately, the governor’s the one, if anyone does, to have the authority to take any action.”

Dench said it would be the commissioners’ call if Gallant’s behavior warrants a complaint to the governor, but he would not say whether the commissioners have asked for his advice on that.

EXPOSING GENITALS A MISDEMEANOR

State law makes it a Class E misdemeanor to knowingly expose one’s genitals under circumstances that are likely to cause affront or alarm, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

According to the Maine Human Rights Commission, which enforces the state’s anti-discrimination laws, any unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when the sexual conduct is a condition of employment, if rejecting the advances is used to make employment decisions about the person being harassed, or if the conduct creates a hostile, intimidating or offensive working environment.

Cote said he chose to speak publicly about the situation because he felt Oxford County officials were not doing enough to protect the members of the sheriff’s office.

“I’m certainly not going to protect a sexual predator who is preying on my bargaining unit members,” Cote said Wednesday. “I want this completely exposed.”

Cote said Gallant’s misconduct should disqualify him from his job and that he should be removed from office.

Gallant confirmed Tuesday night to WGME-TV, after being told about one of the explicit photos, that it was him in the photograph and that it was taken in his office. Gallant, who was first elected in 2006 and is in his third four-year term as county sheriff, has served as president of the sheriffs’ association since January.

“I bring discredit to myself, to my uniform, my badge and the Maine Sheriff’s Association,” Gallant said in a written statement. “The appropriate thing for me to do is not remain in a leadership position with the association and to step down.”

Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce, who was appointed acting president of the sheriff’s association after Gallant’s resignation, said accusations by employees against Gallant should be fully investigated. Joyce said he had not heard any information that the images that Gallant sent involved employees.

If the allegations are true, Joyce said it would be difficult for Gallant to continue in office. He said that whether Gallant remains should be up to the people of Oxford County.

“We serve our communities, we serve our constituents, we serve the taxpayers, and really that’s a question of what do they want,” Joyce said.

The Attorney General’s Office, which investigates allegations of misconduct against police, did not respond to a message Wednesday regarding Gallant.

The Maine Constitution gives the governor the power to remove a sheriff who “is not faithfully or efficiently performing any duty imposed upon the sheriff by law.” The process, last attempted in 1951, requires a complaint, due notice to the sheriff and a hearing.

NO COMMENT BY GOVERNOR’S OFFICE

Julie Rabinowitz, a spokeswoman for Gov. Paul LePage, declined to comment on whether the governor’s office was involved in any discussion about removing Gallant, saying “it’s (a Human Resources) situation.”

Peter Steele, LePage’s director of communications, also refused to comment.

“Our comment is we are not commenting on this issue,” Steele said.

Steve McCausland, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety, said he had no information about Gallant, his conduct or whether the department is investigating him.

County Administrator Scott Cole said that because Maine sheriffs are elected, county government has no role in his employment.

“Only the governor can remove a sheriff from office,” Cole said. “That is the bottom line.”

Oxford County commissioners David Duguay of Byron and Steve Merrill of Norway both said via email they would have no comment on the matter.

Cole said county commissioners held an all-day meeting Tuesday that finished at 5 p.m., then reconvened at 6 p.m. for a budget meeting that Gallant took part in.

“At the end of the (5 p.m.) meeting, the sheriff came in and spoke with the commissioners and myself privately and he basically told us what he told Channel 13,” Cole said. “He owned it, and that was that, there wasn’t much conversation.”

ADMITTING ERROR IN JUDGMENT

Cole said Gallant told commissioners that he had made an error in judgment. “He had sent a picture to somebody. ‘Not a good move,’ ” is what he told commissioners, Cole said.

Asked if Gallant was on duty when the photo was taken, Cole said he could not respond to specific questions. “Recent revelations in the news are what county officials know,” he said.

Cole has not yet responded to a request for copies of any disciplinary records involving Gallant.

Gallant, who is divorced, was an Army sergeant who served in the Vietnam War. He worked with the Rumford Police Department from 1980 to 2005, eventually serving as police chief. He then worked as police chief in Wilton in 2005 before being elected sheriff in 2006. Rumford Town Manager Linda-Jean Briggs said she had one disciplinary record from Gallant’s time in Rumford stemming from a complaint by then-Police Chief Timothy Bourassa in December 1996. Gallant, a lieutenant at the time, had made two statements to a reporter “alleging misconduct on the part of Chief Bourassa.”

The Rumford Board of Selectmen found that Gallant’s statements to the reporter were motivated by a longstanding feud with the police chief and a desire to take the chief’s job. The disciplinary action resulted in a week’s suspension without pay.

Reporter Kathryn Skelton of the Sun Journal in Lewiston and Advertiser Democrat Reporter Erin Place contributed to this report.

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

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