Maine Capitol Police Chief Russell Gauvin, who has been on leave for more than three months pending an investigation into controversial comments and posts he made on social media, will not return to his post.

Instead, Gauvin announced his retirement Friday after reaching a separation agreement with the state. Under the agreement, Gauvin will resign in good standing from his position. He will receive $67,642.12 in severance pay and $19,702.80 for accrued unused leave.

Russell Gauvin, photographed shortly after he was hired as Capitol Police chief in 2006. Photo from Capitol Police Maine Facebook page

The 15-year veteran chief was placed on paid administrative leave on Jan. 19 after coming under fire for comments and posts he shared on Facebook disputing the presidential election results in November and criticizing COVID-19 mask mandates.

The agreement announced Friday makes no mention of his alleged conduct except to say that his social media use was reviewed by the Bureau of Human Resources and that the review is confidential as a personnel-related record under state law.

Gauvin’s retirement was “the result of an agreement he reached with the Department of Public Safety that prioritizes the transition to new permanent leadership for the Maine Capitol police,” the department said in a news release.

“It has been an honor to lead the Capitol Police for fifteen years, under three governors, and to have the opportunity to serve alongside such talented men and women, both sworn and civilian, to keep the seat of Maine state government safe,” Gauvin said in a prepared statement. “I believe now is the appropriate time to step into retirement. My retirement will allow the important work of the Capitol Police to continue uninterrupted. I extend my deepest gratitude to the men and women of the Capitol Police for the honor of leading them.”

Lt. Robert Elliot, who has been leading the Capitol Police since January, will continue to lead the force until a permanent replacement is named. He will oversee the 13-member force that’s responsible for keeping the Maine State House and other state office buildings safe.

Gauvin became the Capitol Police chief in 2006 after he retired as a captain in the Portland Police Department following 26 years there. His Facebook posts were publicized in January just as state law enforcement, including his agency, was responding to warnings from the FBI and preparing for possible violent assaults on the Maine State House by extremist groups who embrace former President Donald Trump’s unfounded claims that he won the November election and staged the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. The local protests did not occur.

The posts were first reported by Mainer, a Portland-based alternative monthly print and online news organization previously known as The Bollard. In one post, Gauvin mocked the use of face masks to guard against spreading COVID-19 and shared a post that suggested masking is part of a bigger plot to control the public.

In others, Gauvin posted that he had “zero confidence” in the results of the November election in which President Biden defeated Trump and shared a post that referred to the election as “a psychological operation of epic proportions.”

He apologized in mid-January, saying in a prepared statement, “I certainly never intended for my social media account to ever bring my commitment to fair and professional law enforcement into question.”

Amid mounting pressure from Democratic lawmakers, Gauvin was placed on leave while an investigation began. Some called for his termination.

Gov. Janet Mills and Maine Public Safety Commissioner Michael Sauschuck both credited Gauvin for apologizing but expressed concerns.

“He has assured us of his commitment to upholding his duties and responsibilities, regardless of any personal beliefs,” the statement read. “We are troubled and concerned by what we have read and have asked that the matter be reviewed through existing personnel process to determine whether any state policies were violated.”

Assistant House Majority Leader Rachel Talbot Ross took a harder line in a statement she issued Friday evening.

“When we learned about the Capitol Police chief’s posts in January, it came right after we witnessed the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol,” said Talbot Ross, D-Portland. “The investigation into former Capitol Police Chief Gauvin should have been swifter, and he should have been fired.

“We need to set the standard that, if you are committing to serve and protect lawmakers and members of the public, you cannot engage in rhetoric that calls for violence and undermines our democracy.”

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