Candidates for district attorney for Washington and Hancock counties are incumbent Matt Foster, left, and challenger Steve Juskewitch. Credit: Contributed

ELLSWORTH, Maine — In what has been a tepid contest so far in the upcoming election for District Attorney of Hancock and Washington counties, the challenger in the race last week asked Hancock County commissioners not to fill a vacant clerical position in the office in the event that he wins in November.

The commissioners declined the request from Steve Juskewitch and decided to hire the person recommended for the job by District Attorney Matthew Foster.

Foster was not too happy with the request from Juskewitch who — if he wins — wouldn’t be sworn in as district attorney until January. Foster, who said his office is understaffed as it is with two employees out on leave, said Juskewitch was concerned that the position requires paralegal training, but that it does not.

[See all Hancock County coverage here]

“I think that it is reprehensible that he would request of the commissioners that the Hancock County District Attorney’s Office be hamstrung for three months leaving us terribly understaffed and unable to fully perform our duties simply so that he can have a job opening to fill with his own secretary if his quest to become District Attorney is realized,” Foster wrote in a message posted on his campaign’s Facebook page. “I hope that on November 6, the voters of Hancock and Washington Counties send him a strong and resounding message that he is not the right person for this job.”

Juskewitch said Monday that his request was only that the position be filled on an interim basis for 30 days, not that it be left unfilled for three months.

“I didn’t think it was outrageous. I didn’t think it was unreasonable,” Juskewitch said. “Matt flipped out.”

In another post on his campaign’s Facebook page, Foster wrote that Juskewitch has been reprimanded three times by the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar, which governs the professional behavior of licensed attorneys in Maine — in 2010 and 2011, and again in 2015.

In the 2015 bar complaint, Juskewitch was found to have improperly contacted the sister of a client over a civil matter that was pending between the two siblings. The board found that Juskewitch did not properly identify his role in the matter or explain how his client could benefit if the sister followed Juskewitch’s unsolicited suggestions.

Juskewitch said Monday of the 2015 bar complaint that at the time he thought he was doing the right thing by communicating with the sister via written correspondence, rather than requesting a hearing at which she would be forced to testify. He acknowledged, however, that he violated the letter of the bar rules in his communications with her.

“I’m fine with what I did all the way around,” Juskewitch said. “Hopefully, people will take the time to look at what happened there.”

Juskewitch declined to offer any criticism of Foster’s job performance over the past four years, saying he did not want to run a negative campaign. He simply said the thinks he “can do a better job” than the incumbent.

Juskewitch, an Independent, has run unsuccessfully for the position every four years since 2002, sometimes as a Democrat and sometimes as a Republican. Foster, a Republican, was first elected to the position in 2014, replacing Carletta Bassano, who opted not to seek re-election after holding the job for four years.

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....