The Hancock County Courthouse in Ellsworth. Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

Hancock County’s commissioners will hold an unusual Saturday afternoon meeting to talk about the lack of recovery coaches for jail inmates battling addiction.

The emergency meeting, scheduled for 5 p.m., comes days after the BDN reported that Sheriff Scott Kane terminated a contract with the county’s previous recovery coach provider last June because it issued a statement in support of Black Lives Matter. This week, the county appeared to have lined up another firm to provide recovery coaching at the jail, only for that company to later say it couldn’t provide the service.

Hancock County commissioners plan to meet in executive session Saturday evening via Zoom “to discuss how the Commissioners are going to proceed regarding the lack of recovery coaching in the jail, with the possibility of consulting with our attorney,” according to an emergency meeting notice sent out Friday afternoon to local news reporters.

It is not clear how commissioners would be allowed under state law to bar the public from listening to the discussion if they do not consult with the county attorney. County officials have not said whether the county is facing or may be subject to litigation over its lack of a recovery coaching program at the jail.

State law lays out a handful of circumstances under which a public body can enter an executive session and meet in private, but they’re limited. One of those reasons is to consult with its attorney over its “legal rights and duties,” “pending or contemplated litigation” and a handful of other topics. A body needs to vote to go into executive session, and state the legally allowed reason it is discussing something in private.

State law doesn’t allow a public body to enter an executive session and discuss a matter in private simply because members prefer not to hold the discussion in public.

William Clark, chairman of the commission, said Friday evening in an email “there is a legal issue that the commissioners need to discuss with counsel” but he did not provide further details.

Kane, the county sheriff, had been expected to ask for county commissioners’ approval of an agreement with a different opioid recovery coaching provider at the commissioners’ regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 2. But an official with the potential provider, Groups Recover Together, said Thursday that it had decided it cannot provide recovery coaching services because of “competing strategic priorities.”

On Friday, the county released an amended agenda for the commissioners’ Feb. 2 meeting that no longer includes a discussion item about the jail’s recovery coaching program.

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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....