MACHIAS, Maine — Washington County Sheriff Donnie Smith has opted to part ways with the the Maine Sheriffs’ Association shortly after his public criticism of Penobscot County Sheriff Glenn Ross over the handling of the investigation of the Rev. Robert Carlson.

Smith said Tuesday he’s baffled by the fallout created by his comments, which came after Ross confirmed that he informed Carlson, a long-time friend, that he was the subject of a criminal investigation.

The Bangor minister took his own life within hours of his two telephone conversations with Ross. Smith contends Ross’ conversations with Carlson breached law enforcement ethics and undermined a Maine State Police investigation into allegations of sexual child abuse.

Last week, Smith called for Ross to step down or to be removed as president of the Maine Sheriffs’ Association, with Smith threatening to resign from membership if that didn’t happen.

It didn’t. Instead, the association agreed last week to appoint a three-member board of inquiry to look into Ross’ conduct in the matter.

Smith said Tuesday he’s walking away from the group after being told that he, as well as Ross, is being investigated by the board of inquiry, which is headed by Hancock County Sheriff Bill Clark.

In an email sent Tuesday to the executive director of the Maine Sheriffs’ Association, Smith said: “Today I learned from my county delegation that Sheriff Clark was in Augusta investigating me, at least in part, because I publicly questioned Ross’ actions. I find this concerning as last week Sheriff Clark informed me that he was looking into the allegations that Sheriff Ross hindered a child abuse investigation.

“I was elected after I promised transparency and honesty with the public. Why is the Maine Sheriffs’ Association more concerned with protecting its own than exposing inappropriate conduct that may have silenced potential victims? Effective immediately, I will resign my membership with the Maine Sheriffs’ Association.”

The board of inquiry’s investigation, when announced last week, was expected to take a week. Clark said Wednesday morning that he planned to submit his investigative report before noon and that the association was likely to summarize its findings for the public through a press release.

“They are going to want to do something, I suspect today,” Clark said. “I think by noontime, hopefully, they’ll make a decision.”

Kennebec County Sheriff Randall Liberty, who is the sheriff association’s second in command, said Wednesday afternoon that the executive board reviewed the investigation’s findings and decided to submit them to the group’s attorney before they become public.

“That [information] will be available tomorrow afternoon,” he said, declining to say whether the findings listed any recommendations.

Asked if his inquiry included an investigation of Smith, Clark said this Wednesday morning: “That’s something I can’t deny or confirm at this point.”

BDN reporter Nok-Noi Ricker contributed to this story.