Maine State Police on Friday released unredacted documents related to four state troopers who were suspended for misconduct, complying with an order from a Penobscot County judge who found the state improperly withheld public information.

The documents were released following lawsuits filed jointly by the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram and the Bangor Daily News. Last year, the newspapers teamed up to investigate the pattern of secrecy surrounding misconduct within the Maine State Police.

Final disciplinary measures against public employees, including police, are public records in Maine. But the Maine State Police argued that portions of the records – some of which appeared to contain the only descriptions of the misconduct – were exempt from disclosure. Officials refused to provide the newspapers with an itemized reason for each redaction.

The newly released sections of the documents show how inconsistent disciplinary records can be. There is no standard or law in Maine that requires a public agency to provide a clear description of the misconduct that warranted punishment. And in one Maine State Police case in which a supervisor, Sgt. Elisha Fowlie, was suspended without pay for 30 days, it’s still not clear what warranted the discipline.

The records indicate that Fowlie gave some direction to someone else that resulted in misconduct, and then hid what he had done from his superiors. The records never say what direction he gave or what the misconduct was.

Sen. Lisa Keim, R-Oxford, who serves on the Judiciary Committee and was disturbed by the redactions last year, said she is concerned now by the lack of information in the unredacted parts of the records.


“That’s crazy,” said Keim, when she heard the vaguely worded language that state police had originally refused to release. “I don’t understand why. Is their assumption then that they don’t ever have to say the reason that a law enforcement officer was disciplined?”

Keim suggested the Legislature or its Right to Know Advisory Committee convene a working group to examine the issues involved in police discipline and how agencies determine what can be released to the public.

The records illustrate the often unchecked power of the state to interpret and define what information should be recorded and released upon request. On paper, the courts provide a check on this power, but litigation is costly and time-consuming, meaning that in practice, lack of disclosure often goes unchallenged, leaving the public in the dark.

In all, the newspapers spent two years to force the state to unmask 12 sentences of public information, half of which were boilerplate language applied to two different troopers.

One such redaction, now revealed, appears arbitrary and unrelated to any of the exceptions to disclosure defined in law, which cover things like information about medical diagnoses and treatment or unconfirmed allegations of misconduct. In that case, the redacted paragraph contained a general acknowledgment that the state trooper’s misconduct – driving after drinking alcohol and telling an investigating agency that he was a state trooper – broke the public’s trust and did not meet the standards of conduct set out for all troopers.

The newspapers jointly published a three-day series in April 2021 revealing the nature of misconduct in the ranks of the state police based on the records the police provided. The reporting and the ensuing lawsuit were supported by the Pulitzer Center and the Yale Law School Media and Information Access Clinic.



Reporting showed a secretive process, in which records about the misconduct are only briefly available publicly before they’re destroyed, a practice that is apparently unique among Maine law enforcement agencies.

Other police departments in the state abide by union contracts that require police administrators to disregard old disciplinary infractions during decision-making for promotions or future disciplinary measures. The records are set aside but remain preserved and accessible to the public upon request.

The Maine State Police said it keeps no records of what documents it destroys or when – and per their union contract, troopers can wipe clean their entire disciplinary history before retirement if they have committed no recent disciplinary infractions.

The released documents are not even a complete snapshot. State police provided statistics that show that during a roughly six-year period ending in 2020, there were 208 internal affairs cases that resulted in 65 sustained allegations, or cases where troopers committed misconduct.

It’s not known how many of the 65 cases resulted in discipline. The Maine State Police gave the newspapers 20 records of discipline for 19 officers for cases completed through the first half of 2020.


In some cases, reporters were able to find fuller descriptions of trooper misconduct in the public records of another agency, the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, which licenses every police officer in the state and has its own disciplinary process. The academy often releases substantially more information than law enforcement agencies about police misconduct.


More records from the Maine State Police may be forthcoming, however. As part of the judge’s ruling issued last week, the agency will have to perform a deeper search for missing disciplinary records and release what it finds, a process expected to be complete this month.

The opaque practices of the state police go against the intent of lawmakers, who more than 30 years ago decided to make final disciplinary records of public employees available to the public. But there is no statute that specifies what information those final disciplinary records must contain, giving police departments and police unions wide latitude to maneuver around what the law intended.

“I don’t think any one of us ever envisioned that something that was ultimately deemed public after the fact would be incomplete to the extent that you couldn’t figure out what the person had done,” Richard Trahey, a former lobbyist for the then-Maine State Employees Association who helped craft the law 30 years ago, said last year. “That almost makes no sense.”

A handful of lawmakers, including Keim, told the newspapers last year that they thought state law should spell out what information disciplinary records should include, but there have been no substantive changes to state law that would require agencies to make clear what a public employee did to warrant discipline.


In his May 26 ruling, Penobscot County Superior Court Judge William R. Anderson ruled that the state must release the information, but said the state could withhold some portions of records that describe state employees’ medical information or medical conditions.

There is no statewide standard for what information must be included in a record of final discipline for a public employee. Some agencies provide specific descriptions of why an employee was disciplined, while other agencies leave out key details and provide only vague descriptions.


The quality of descriptions varied within the state police records, as well.

In the case of Cpl. Kyle Pelletier, the state redacted a single sentence that provided the only description of the misconduct:

“The case alleges in July, 2019 (Pelletier) misused state property by artificially inflating the speedometer reading of your cruiser to present a false mileage claim to the state garage.”


The allegation was sustained, and Pelletier was handed a consecutive 20-day suspension and ordered to repay the state $108.

In the case of Fowlie, the supervisor who was suspended for 30 days, the state police redacted three sentences in his disciplinary record:

“It is alleged that on or about July/August 2019 you provided inappropriate directions to a subordinate resulting in misconduct,” the record reads. “You also failed to provide proper direction related to photographic documentation of the misconduct. You also failed to bring the misconduct to the attention of your superiors.”

Trooper Daniel Murray was disciplined for being intoxicated when he let a 15-year-old boy with a learner’s permit drive Murray’s vehicle from a Waterville bar.

Because adults have to be alert and sober when accompanying an unlicensed driver, police charged Murray with the misdemeanor crime of accompanying a motor vehicle permittee while impaired.

Redacted from Murray’s records was the boilerplate language in which Murray acknowledged in writing that he broke the public’s trust and fell short of his ethical obligations, a basic tenant of accountability.


In the disciplinary records police released to the newspapers, Trooper David Coflesky received the longest suspension.

In March 2016, Coflesky consumed excessive amounts of alcohol, took another person’s car without permission and drove it on public roads during a trip to Killington, Vermont, according to academy documents. During an investigation that followed, he identified himself as a Maine state trooper, state records show, but it’s still unclear who was doing the investigating.

The Maine State Police learned about the incident after the fact, and two months later informed the criminal justice academy that it was investigating, a requirement under state law if a police officer is suspected of committing criminal conduct.

Coflesky signed a “last chance” agreement, which permitted him to keep his job if he agreed to a negotiated punishment that included, among other things, a 60-day suspension.


In his disciplinary record, the state redacted an entire paragraph in which Coflesky agreed that he broke the public’s trust – the same paragraph, save for his name, that was redacted from Murray’s file.


“Trooper Coflesky recognizes as a member of the Maine State Police, he occupies a law enforcement position of responsibility and trust, which requires a high standard of conduct and reliability,” the paragraph read. “He also understands this conduct contradicts the Maine State Police Core Principles, the Maine State Police Code of Conduct and the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics. Trooper Coflesky recognizes his conduct, as outlined above, demonstrated a failure to meet those standards and agrees the disciplinary action was warranted.”

Keim, the lawmaker from Oxford, said it appears the state police operate under their own set of rules and laws.

“There’s just so many questions there. Just the idea that someone was driving intoxicated and then we don’t know why were they never actually held responsible for that publicly when they could have killed someone,” Keim said.

Keim wants to know, how the Maine State Police found out about Coflesky’s conduct and why was he not arrested for drunken driving.

“If you can say, ‘I’m so and so,’ and therefore you get special treatment, that’s a problem,” she said. “You should be under the law just like everyone else, not above the law.”

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