BANGOR — The controversy continues at the state capitol over views expressed by the police chief. Russell Gauvin is being reviewed regarding his “concerning” posts on social media.
Now, a number of Maine Republicans are backing the chief.
“We have to protect the First Amendment here. Regardless of what you do for work, I think in your personal time you have a right to your personal opinions,” said Rep. Matthew Harrington, R-Sanford.
That view was echoed by nearly 70 state Republican lawmakers who signed a letter, written by Harrington to Public Safety Commissioner Mike Sauschuck, backing Chief Gauvin.
“He’s always done a fantastic job of keeping legislators safe, and you would never know his political positioning on the way he actually acts at the statehouse,” Rep. Harrington said.
Gauvin became the center of controversy last week when posts on his social media critical of mask mandates and other democratic policies came to light.
Gauvin has since deleted the posts and apologized.
Earlier this week, another 70 state lawmakers, mostly Democrats, said in another letter to Commissioner Sauschuck that Gauvin showed support for conspiracy theories that led to the violent insurrection in Washington, D.C. and that his posts “portray an inability to neutrally” do his job.
Democratic Rep. Joe Perry of Bangor, who signed onto that letter, said it’s best not to jump to conclusions but that the matter is worth looking into.
“I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t want to at least take a closer look,” Rep. Perry said. “I mean, this person is in charge, the number one person in charge of securing the capitol, the people who work there, the state office building, the legislators.”
Rep. Harrington said the issue is “politically driven.”
“It’s a slippery slope when we start censoring speech, especially in a personal capacity,” said Rep. Harrington.
“In any of the posts I saw, there was nothing that would lead you to believe that he wouldn’t be able to do his job,” Rep. Harrington added.
Reports indicate Gauvin is no longer in charge of the capitol police, at least for now, although it’s unclear what his status is.
A public safety department spokesperson said in a statement to WVII/WFVX a review is being conducted “in an independent manner, by state government human resource professionals, and is grounded in state policy.”
“Once we have all the information, make a judgment if this was appropriate behavior for the police chief and if we feel like the capitol’s adequately secured under his leadership, or if we determine there may be a problem there,” said Rep. Perry.