JACKMAN — Rene Guay of Jackman, a former Somerset County sheriff’s deputy, announced Thursday his candidacy for sheriff of the state’s third largest county.
Running as an independent, Guay, 39, said he would bring a high level of accountability to the department, something he said has been lacking during the tenure of current Sheriff Barry DeLong.
Guay needs 400 signatures on his nomination papers, which are not due at the Secretary of State’s Office until May. But he said Thursday he will have his papers completed and turn them in next week.
Guay was a deputy with the Somerset County Sheriff’s Department from 1989 to 1996, when he resigned because he felt the department was being run incorrectly. “It’s always been the `good ole boy’ system to the hilt,” he said.
DeLong confirmed Thursday afternoon that he will run for re-election against Guay, with current Chief Deputy Paul Davis at his side. He categorized Guay “as a disgruntled ex-employee, and I won’t get into a dirt-slinging contest with him.”
With a department of more than 100 people to run, DeLong said, “I have neither the time nor the interest to deal with Rene Guay.”
By running this year, Guay said he is “trying to resurrect the integrity and professionalism and accountability of the sheriff’s department.
“I think that some major problems exist within the department. It is the lack of accountability that causes those problems. I believe, from experience, and I still have serious connections within the department, that the current department is ethically and morally corrupt.”
Guay said some examples of this unethical behavior include the hiring of people with criminal convictions, the hiring of unqualified people and inappropriate behavior by the sheriff.
“The list is endless,” said Guay on Thursday, in a telephone interview from his Jackman home. He accused DeLong of hiring people as “political paybacks” without concern for their qualifications for the position.
Guay said the most blatant example was DeLong’s hiring of his daughter, Carrie Jo LeBlanc, as a receptionist last year. Within months, said Guay, LeBlanc was off the reception desk and operating as a department detective, without having attended the Maine Criminal Justice Academy.
DeLong countered Guay’s claims by saying that his daughter has been hired “as a utility person” and fulfills a great number of duties. She is not considered a detective, he said, but assists Detective Carl Gottardi. She has completed the academy’s 100-hour course, he said.
Other examples of unethical hiring practices, said Guay, exist within the county’s corrections operation. DeLong hired Robert Beane as a cook, said Guay, despite the fact that Beane was convicted of criminal trespass. Guay said the cook has been convicted twice more since then. “This man is mingling freely with the prisoners,” said Guay.
Guay said he is currently investigating at least two other corrections officers who he believes may have felony convictions.
DeLong denied Guay’s accusations and said he had not hired Beane, that Beane was hired during a previous administration and that he was unaware of anything more serious than a $50 fishing violation on Beane’s record.
If elected, Guay said he would create a board consisting of members of all Somerset police departments to assist in hiring. He would also pursue legislation that would either require a board to monitor and oversee the sheriff’s position or increase the powers of the county commissioners to do so. “There has to be accountability,” said Guay.
Although Guay was a deputy with Somerset County for seven years, he is probably most well remembered as one of the law enforcement officers who shot Katherine Hegarty after a short stand-off in May 1992 in Dennistown Plantation. The shooting touched off a firestorm of protests against police actions and resulted in legislation requiring better training for police officers.
Guay said the shooting was a tragedy and an event that he replays in his mind daily. But he said the incident would help him be a better sheriff and a stronger administrator and that he more clearly understands the stress that deputies in the field are under.
Guay said that as his candidacy unfolds, he will be able to tell the whole story of the Hegarty confrontation, something he and the other officers involved have been unable to do because of past litigation. Now that the case has been heard by the U.S. Supreme Court and the men have been cleared of wrongdoing, Guay said he is free to discuss the shooting. He maintains that proper police procedure was followed during the shooting.