The town of Gouldsboro last fall gave its police chief a verbal warning and ordered him to undergo sexual harassment training, a town patrol officer was fired and then given his job back, and last month, a third officer quit, calling Gouldsboro’s police department “an embarrassment to law enforcement” in his resignation letter.

The turmoil came less than a year into John Shively’s tenure as chief of the Gouldsboro Police Department, which has now seen three chiefs in five years and survived a June 2019 referendum vote in which residents were asked whether they wanted to keep their local police force intact.

Last fall, then-officer Eli Brown and fellow patrolman Adam Brackett told town officials they had no confidence in Shively, who was promoted to run the department of three officers, including the chief, in October 2019 after starting as an officer in December 2017.

In a written reprimand issued to Brown in October 2020 for “insubordination and serious breach of discipline,” Gouldsboro Town Manager Andrea Sirois noted that the town had been trying to mediate disagreements between Shively and his officers.

John Shively, a sergeant with the Gouldsboro Police Department, was hired Oct. 24, 2019, to become the town’s next chief of police. Credit: Courtesy of Town of Gouldsboro

The “patrol officers have stated that they refuse to attend and/or actively participate in an honest effort to restore cooperation,” Sirois wrote. “Additionally [the officers] have stated that they refuse to work under Chief Shively.”

The no-confidence notice by Brown and Brackett, and the requirement that Shively undergo sexual harassment training, are referred to in public disciplinary decisions in the officers’ and chief’s personnel files that were recently released by the town after the Bangor Daily News requested copies of the documents under Maine’s Freedom of Access Act.

Shively was ordered to undergo sexual harassment training last September after being accused of sexually harassing another town employee.

Brackett received a written warning from Shively in January after looking up someone’s private information in a confidential inter-agency police database for personal reasons, rather than as part of a police investigation.

Brackett’s improper use of the database came up during an investigation of Brackett by the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department, conducted at Shively’s request, after a woman filed a complaint against Brackett accusing him of slander, misusing his credentials and disseminating private information. The sheriff’s department found the woman’s complaint against Brackett to be unfounded.

Prior to that, Brackett was terminated by the town on Oct. 9, after he and Brown told town officials they had no confidence in Shively, and after the two patrolmen expressed reservations about having Sirois mediate between them and the chief, which they felt should have been done by an outside party.

But Brackett was returned to his job three weeks later. In an Oct. 30 letter from selectmen to Brackett, they told him they were “reluctantly” reinstating him as a patrol officer — not because they felt his firing had been “wrong or extreme, but to provide a second opportunity for the employee to correct their behavior with the hopes of becoming a model employee.”

Contacted Thursday, Shively declined to comment about any discipline issues in the department, including his own.

Attempts Thursday to contact Brackett, who still works as a patrol officer for the town, were unsuccessful. The town office was closed “due to a COVID exposure,” according to an outgoing phone message at the town office, and Brackett did not respond to an email.

Sirois declined to comment on any of the discipline issues with the town’s police department.

Dana Rice, the town’s longtime chairman of the board of selectmen, also declined to comment.

Brown said he was disciplined because he resisted participating in the mediation process led by Sirois. 

Brown said there are multiple reasons why he told town officials he had no confidence in Shively serving as Gouldsboro’s police chief. He accused Shively of giving him inaccurate information on several occasions, of not exercising good judgment, and of undermining his officers. Brown said he resigned in February because, in the months that passed since he first lodged complaints with the town, none of the problems he had with Shively were adequately addressed and he received no support from Sirois or selectmen.

The sexual harassment complaints and required training are not the only work-related complications Shively faces.

On Wednesday, Shively was driving the department’s new cruiser when it was involved in a crash at the town’s satellite fire station on Route 186, according to Danny Mitchell Jr., police chief in the neighboring town of Winter Harbor, whose department is investigating the crash. The cruiser, a Dodge Ram crew-cab pickup truck, had been in the town’s service for one month, according to the Gouldsboro Police Department’s Facebook page.

The Gouldsboro Police Department’s new cruiser is shown in this February 2021 photo on the Gouldsboro Police Department Facebook page. Credit: Courtesy of Gouldsboro Police Department

Information about how badly the cruiser was damaged was unavailable Thursday. Shively declined to comment on the crash.

Gouldsboro has a history of turmoil and turnover with its police chiefs.

Shively became chief of the department in October 2019 after Tyler Dunbar, the prior chief, resigned over what Dunbar said was “a clear lack of political support for the police department from the town government.” Dunbar announced his decision to resign that previous June, two weeks before Gouldsboro voters decided overwhelmingly not to disband the town’s police department.

Three years prior to Dunbar’s resignation, in 2016, Paul Gamble was fired as chief after town officials faulted him for using a town credit card to pay for gas in his personal pickup truck, according to a lawsuit he subsequently filed against the town. The next year, Gamble settled the lawsuit with the town for $67,500, according to the Ellsworth American weekly newspaper.

Prior to that, Guy Wycoff was fired from the position twice — once in July 2002, before he was reinstated a few weeks later, and then again in 2008.

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....