Friday, December 13, 2013
By MATT HONGOLTZ-HETLING Morning Sentinel
The Clinton police officer who was accused of assault this week was fired from a position as a Washington County deputy in 2010 for conduct unbecoming a sheriff's deputy.
In addition to a criminal investigation, Officer Scott Francis, 37, of Winslow is being investigated by the town and the state, officials said Thursday. Winslow police charged Francis with assault and domestic assault Wednesday in connection with an incident on Monday evening.
Clinton's police chief said he was aware that Francis had been terminated in 2010, but it didn't disqualify him from the position with the department, because a state board dismissed the case against Francis and his background check was good.
Police have declined to release the details of the Monday evening incident. Under Maine law, assault happens when a person "intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury or offensive physical contact to another person."
Domestic-violence assault is the same, except that it is committed against a member of the person's household or family. Both are punishable by up to 364 days incarceration and a $2,000 fine.
In a written report from 2010, Washington County Sheriff Donnie Smith said Francis was put on paid administrative leave on Feb. 10 after being served with a temporary order of protection on behalf of his estranged wife.
About two weeks after Francis was put on leave, county commissioners voted to uphold Smith's recommendation to fire Francis for "conduct unbecoming an officer."
The sheriff's actions triggered a February 2010 state investigation into Francis' certification as a law enforcement official, according to John Rogers, director of the Maine Criminal Justice Academy. Three months later, the academy board's complaint committee dismissed the case and recommended no further action, Rogers said.
"That means they couldn't prove the crime," Rogers said Thursday.
The state's ruling gave Clinton Police Chief Craig Johnson the confidence to hire Francis, Johnson said Thursday. "His background check came out favorably," Johnson said.
Now Francis faces parallel investigations as the town, the state licensing board and the criminal justice system weigh the evidence to decide what, if any, penalty is appropriate.
Johnson said the town could determine that no action is needed or it could take a wide range of disciplinary actions
Rogers said the complaint committee will handle the current certification case against Francis, one of 20 filed against law enforcement officers statewide so far this year, using the same process that was used in 2010.
The three-member committee includes a citizen without law enforcement experience. Rogers said the committee will gather evidence and make a recommendation that could include revocation of Francis' certification.
Francis' case is unusual because he has been out on workers' compensation for about two weeks, Clinton Town Manager Warren Hatch said.
Ordinarily, a town employee can be suspended without pay, Hatch said. In this case, Francis is being paid by the Maine Workers' Compensation Board, not the town, Hatch said.
That means that his paychecks are dependent on his ability to work, not the outcome of the town's investigation, said Paul Sighinolfi, executive director of the compensation board.
-- Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Kaitlin Schroeder contributed to this report.
Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be contacted at 861-9287 or at: