Several lawmakers called on Tuesday for a formal inquiry into an undercover raid in the northern Maine town of Allagash by the Maine Warden Service.

In addition, Gov. Paul LePage said in a radio interview that he was disturbed by the activities of wardens during the raid, which was detailed in a story published Sunday in the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. LePage said his office is looking into whether the report is accurate.

Rep. Barry Hobbins, D-Saco, House chairman of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee, supports a request for an investigation into the raid and said he would confer with Senate Chairman David Burns, R-Whiting, before seeking authorization from legislative leaders to launch a formal inquiry. The probe could include the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee and the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee.

“This is a huge issue. There has to be a complete follow-through,” said Hobbins, who believes the record shows “an arrogant flouting and disregard” to Maine’s open record laws, over which the committee has direct oversight. “Fortunately, the Fourth Estate has brought it to the forefront. This way it cannot be hidden.”

Burns did not respond to several requests for comment on Tuesday.

Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos, I-Friendship, who serves on the Judiciary Committee, requested that it use its subpoena powers to investigate allegations in the Telegram story that game wardens padded evidence, provided alcohol to people who were being investigated and invented events that did not occur during an undercover operation that lasted two years and resulted in only minor charges against the intended targets. He also suggested including the Criminal Justice and IF&W committees to investigate allegations that go beyond Maine’s open records law.


“If even half of the allegations uncovered by (Telegram staff writer) Colin Woodard are true, it is incumbent on the Judiciary Committee to at least hold an investigative hearing, with full subpoena powers, to determine what is exactly going on, in addition to why the good work and promises made by Assistant Attorney General Brenda Kielty to the Judiciary Committee, (the state public records ombudsperson), have been subject to obstruction and a mockery by high-level officials in the Maine Warden Service,” Evangelos said in an email Tuesday morning to the chairmen of the committee.

Evangelos encouraged the committee to use its subpoena powers to gain access to public records that were denied to the newspaper as part of its investigation.

“One thing is clear from the documents and the reporting, the Maine Warden Service is flaunting Maine FOAA law, the public and media’s right to know, as well as the dubious methods of ‘investigation’ and possible violations of law and entrapment that occurred in the Allagash,” Evangelos said.

Hobbins said he has heard from at least two other committee members who also support a formal inquiry.

Warden Service spokesman Cpl. John MacDonald declined to comment, saying the department would issue a statement in the coming days. On Monday, MacDonald said in a written statement that the May 8 story contained “misrepresentations and inaccuracies,” but he did not identify what they were.

The Press Herald/Telegram investigation focused on the undercover operation and dramatic raid in the town of Allagash that resulted in minor criminal charges against its intended targets, and a raft of poaching convictions against one man whom the undercover agent enticed to poach during nine night hunting outings in the agent’s truck.


Two film crews from the television show “North Woods Law” shadowed 30 armed wardens backed by state troopers as a nighttime raid unfolded on Feb. 5, 2014. Several of those charged accused the agent of a number of improprieties, including padding evidence, providing alcohol to targets, and inventing events that did not take place. One woman’s home-canned peaches were improperly seized as evidence and, she says, never returned. After charges were dropped against the woman, Hope Kelly, wardens contacted her seasonal employer, resulting in her not being rehired.

The newspaper’s investigation found that an undercover warden provided guns, ammunition, transportation and a searchlight to a target of the probe – and even shot a deer to encourage the person to poach.

The wardens refused the newspaper’s interview requests, failed to fully comply with a public records request and refused to provide an unredacted copy of their undercover operations policy, even though earlier versions of the policy had been made public in the past. Wardens responded to some written questions but refused to answer follow-up questions.

Evangelos’ request came a day after state Sen. Paul T. Davis, R-Sangerville, requested a meeting with the Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife Commissioner Chandler Woodcock to get an explanation for the conduct of the wardens, who are part of Woodcock’s department.

LePage addressed the story Tuesday morning during a radio interview on WVOM, the Voice of Maine, often giving conflicting answers.

On the one hand, LePage was critical of Woodard and the newspaper, calling the investigation a “whole lot of nothing” and a “gotcha moment” that is part of a pattern of attacks against his administration.


“That article did a disservice to the state – did a disservice to the Allagash community,” LePage said. “I just didn’t see anything in there that was of any value to society.”

However, LePage then went on to say that he was concerned about allegations that wardens seized Kelly’s canned vegetables and were reportedly providing guns, ammunition and alcohol to people, while encouraging them to poach deer. He equated those activities with the so-called “Fast and Furious” scandal, in which federal officials allowed gun peddlers to sell weapons illegally in an effort to track down Mexican cartels.

“It is very, very disturbing to me,” LePage said. “That makes us no better than the Obama administration sending guns to Mexico and ended up killing our people.”

LePage also said it may be legal for an undercover warden to poach a deer, but that doesn’t make it morally correct.

LePage said his office is looking into whether the report is accurate.

“I don’t put much faith in Colin Woodard,” he said. “However, that doesn’t mean I am going to allow people to go undercover and allow people to drink beer and encourage people to shoot deer. That’s just not right.”

LePage also took credit for the cancellation of the “North Woods Law” show, which he said was unrelated to the Allagash sting. He said he has received hundreds of complaints about the show and its portrayal of wardens who “hide in the woods and just go after out-of-state hunters.”

“I, quite frankly, was part of being very critical of that show. I didn’t like it. I didn’t think it was giving Maine a good image. And I had more to do with that being canceled than any sting operation,” LePage said.

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