SACO, Maine — An investigation into Saco's police chief and deputy chief has resulted in no findings of misconduct, the city administrator said Monday.
Police Chief Raynald Demers and Deputy Police Chief Corey Huntress, first- and second-in-command of the agency, were both placed on paid administrative leave two months ago due to circumstances left unexplained.
In an internal memo obtained in March by NEWS CENTER Maine, City Administrator Kevin Sutherland stated he had "attended several shift changes to address what [he] thought were departmental communication issues …"
"Since then," he stated, "additional information has come to my attention where I've now placed the chief and deputy chief on paid administrative leave and am working with our attorney to assign a third-party investigator."
No explicit reason for the decision to place the two officers on leave was included in the memo or ever publicly released by the city or agency.
A lawyer representing both Chief Demers and Deputy Chief Huntress said her clients were pleased the investigation was complete, "always confident the findings would demonstrate that they committed no misconduct."
"Chief Demers and Deputy Chief Huntress want to thank the family and friends who supported them and stood by them during this time," attorney Stacey Neumann said. "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."
In a letter addressed to Sutherland and delivered Monday, Saco Patrol Union President Matt Roberts states that "every officer, detective, corporal and sergeant at the Saco Police Department has no confidence in either [Demers or Huntress] having the ability to lead this organization."
Signed by both Roberts and the leader of the Saco Command Union, the letter expresses the unions' disappointment with the decision to exonerate, writing that "we have gone unheard" and "are offended at this outcome."
"The vast majority of members met with the investigator and expressed significant issues within the agency," Roberts writes. "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."
In less than eight years, he writes, 50 people have left the Saco Police Department — an agency comprised of 54, top to bottom.
"Those of us who have shown loyalty to the city by staying at the department and tolerated the toxic environment fostered by both Ray and Corey deserve better leadership," Roberts states. "As we have already discussed, we have employees telling us that they will leave this department if they 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."
Roberts ends the letter, signed by two officers, with this: "We wish to continue to proudly provide police service to our city, and promise that the police department will continue to do so. We regret, however, that many of the current members will likely be providing their service to another jurisdiction."
Neumann responded Monday night to the unions' letter on behalf of Demers and Huntress:
"The Chief and Deputy have the utmost respect for the Union and its members, but are unable to comment publically on the inner workings and personnel matters within the Police Department," she stated.
"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."
Demers and Huntress will soon be reinstated and return to work later this week, Sutherland said.
Deputy Chief Jack Clements filled the role of acting chief in their absence.