The Saco police chief and deputy chief will return to work without the support of the department’s rank and file.

City officials announced Monday that an investigation into unspecified allegations against Chief Raynald Demers and Deputy Chief Corey Huntress revealed no misconduct and said the men would return to their posts this week. The Saco police unions responded by saying their members have no confidence that the chief and deputy can lead the department.

Demers and Huntress were placed on leave on March 15 over allegations of misconduct that were never publicly disclosed. City officials said little during the past two months about those allegations or the investigation, which was conducted by a third party and overseen by the Saco City Council.

“This investigation has resulted in no findings of misconduct,” City Administrator Kevin Sutherland said in a statement. “Police Chief Demers and Deputy Chief Huntress are being reinstated and will be returning to work later this week.”

However, the unions representing both patrol officers and midlevel commanders wrote that they were disappointed with the city’s decision, according to a letter addressed to Sutherland and delivered Monday. The letter says the unions formally delivered a vote of no confidence to the city on March 22, one week into the investigation.

“The vast majority of members met with the investigator and expressed significant issues within the agency,” the unions wrote Monday. “The depth of the issues, and the volume of complaints brought to the investigator would have led any reasonable person to understand that Ray Demers and Corey Huntress are unfit to lead any organization, especially a police department.”

City and union officials have declined to discuss or provide a copy of the March 22 no-confidence message, and the city formally denied a request for the correspondence made under the state’s Freedom of Access Act. An attorney for the city, Linda McGill, argued that the letter was exempt from disclosure because it involved a personnel matter.

In the letter delivered Monday, the unions reiterated the seriousness of the no-confidence vote and said the relationship between the two top managers and their employees is irreparable.

“The Command Unit and the Patrol Unit both met separately and held votes, which were unanimous,” the unions wrote. “Every officer, detective, corporal and sergeant at the Saco Police Department has no confidence in either of them having the ability to lead this organization.”

The unions said the toxic work environment led to turnover in the Saco Police Department that totaled about 50 people over eight years.

“As we have already discussed, we have employees telling us that they will leave this department if (Demers and Huntress) return; this will happen. We have been short-staffed for years and have been unable to fill our vacancies. Our neighboring police agencies do not suffer this issue.”

The unions praised Deputy Chief Jack Clements, who was third in command when Demers and Huntress were placed on leave, and has been at the helm since.

“Deputy Chief Clements has managed to raise morale despite this tough time,” they wrote. “He has exercised fair and consistent authority of the agency. We have never been happier or more productive than we have under his leadership.”

Stacey Neumann, an attorney for Demers and Huntress, released a statement Monday on behalf of the two men. The statement was released simultaneously with the city’s announcement that Demers and Huntress will return to their jobs, and thanked family and friends for support during their administrative leave.

“(Demers and Huntress) are pleased that the investigation is finally completed and the results released, and were always confident the findings would demonstrate that they committed no misconduct,” the statement from Neumann said. “These dedicated public servants have worked for over 30 years for the Saco Police Department. They are eager to get back to work serving the residents of Saco and leading the outstanding women and men of the Saco Police Department.”

Neumann responded later to the union’s letter, saying the process cleared her clients of wrongdoing.

“The chief and deputy have the utmost respect for the union and its members, but are unable to comment publicly on the inner workings and personnel matters within the police department,” Neumann said in an emailed statement. “They look forward to returning to the police department and working with the union to address their concerns professionally, while continuing to balance the needs of the organization with the needs of the citizens of Saco they have sworn to serve and protect.”

Sutherland’s decision to place Demers and Huntress on leave came to light only after an internal memo to employees was leaked. Shortly after, the City Council decided to oversee the investigation, as is allowed under the city charter.

On May 6, the City Council voted to end the investigation after meeting in executive session to review a report from the investigator, but did not otherwise publicly discuss the situation. Last week, the council met for nearly three hours behind closed doors. Demers and Huntress, along with Neumann, waited outside the private session, but also joined the councilors at different points during the meeting, before the council adjourned without taking action.

Sutherland announced in the brief statement Monday that Demers and Huntress would return to work, but provided no other details about the investigation or its findings.

He refused to answer further questions about the investigation Monday, including who made the determination that Demers and Huntress did not engage in misconduct.

Mayor Marston Lovell did not respond to a message from a reporter seeking an interview Monday.

Neumann said Demers and Huntress were not available for interviews Monday. She said she was not able to discuss the nature of the allegations made against her clients because that is a personnel matter.

“This (investigation) was conducted in the most appropriate way possible, which was putting these long-standing public servants on paid leave and hiring a third-party investigator to investigate,” Neumann said in an interview.

Neumann also said she “can’t comment at this point” on whether Demers and Huntress are considering any legal action against the city.

“This is a really difficult period for the chief and the deputy chief,” she said. “They had a lot of support in the community and the department.”

Demers was appointed as police chief in December 2016 after the previous chief retired. Demers had been deputy chief of operations for the previous six years and has worked for the city for 35 years. Huntress has been employed by the department for 30 years.

When Demers was appointed chief, Sutherland praised him for his striving for “transparency, fairness and honesty” and said Demers “holds himself to the highest standard of professionalism and ethics.”

“He is well-respected within the community and has a strong connection to its community leaders – a testimony shown in part by the significant number of letters of support my office received,” Sutherland said of Demers in late 2016.

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