MACHIAS – The Washington County commissioners and the retiring Washington County sheriff have taken on inappropriate roles in publicly backing the Republican candidate for sheriff, a rival candidate for the same position charged on Friday.
Donnie Smith, an independent candidate from Lubec, called a press conference on the Washington County Courthouse lawn to respond to remarks made Wednesday by the chairman of the commissioners.
“I am a law enforcement officer, and people told me politics was tough,” said Smith, a sergeant in the sheriff’s department. “I can deal with tough, but I have trouble with deceit and slanderous attacks.”
On Wednesday, Commissioner Kevin Shorey held a press conference to highlight the commissioners’ request to the district attorney to look into allegations of a campaign-related ethics violation by Smith.
Smith said Friday that the alleged violation – a photo of him in uniform that appears on his Web site – was cleared by state officials in February. He questioned why the commissioners have raised the matter just one month before the Nov. 7 election.
“I have run a clean, fair and ethical campaign,” Smith said. “I have been told by the Ethics Commission and the Attorney General’s Office, who consulted with the district attorney, that my campaign is ethical and in compliance with all laws, rules and regulations.”
Smith provided reporters with copies of a Feb. 16 e-mail from Brian MacMaster of the Attorney General’s Office sent to him. The e-mail guided Smith through compliance by asking him to remove his Web site’s link to a solicitation for campaign contributions.
Smith is immersed in a three-way race against Rodney Merritt, a Republican from East Machias, and George Bunker, a Democrat from Baileyville. Among the issues is Sheriff Joseph Tibbetts’ endorsement of Merritt as a candidate, which Smith believes has been divisive.
“I ran as an independent because I wanted to keep politics out of this race,” Smith said.
“It is now abundantly clear that Sheriff Tibbetts and the commissioners support Rodney Merritt, and I have no problem with that,” Smith said.
“I do, however, question the wisdom of them using their positions, as my superiors, to wage personal attacks at me, and to restrain me from performing my job as a sergeant of the Washington County Sheriff’s Department.
“I have learned that rumors are circulating about my personal life, my military service and other ridiculous false statements. I have nothing to hide.”
Asked Friday if he would publicly back one candidate within his department over two others also working under him again, given how the campaign has developed, Tibbetts said he would. He said he will be back in his office Tuesday, and probably will call his own press conference Wednesday.