In this Sept. 1, 2020, file photo, the York County Jail is seen in Alfred. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

The longtime York County Jail administrator has been terminated for his handling of a COVID-19 outbreak last year that infected dozens of inmates, staff members and their families.

On Friday, York County commissioners voted unanimously to remove Michael Vitiello from his post, the Courier-Post reported. The move followed the recommendation of Sheriff William King.

Vitiello had served as jail administrator for 21 years before being placed on administrative leave in September following an outbreak that infected 48 inmates, 48 staff members and 16 family members of staff, according to the newspaper. The outbreak was among the largest in the state.

The cases began spreading in August after a staff member attended a wedding in the Millinocket area and became infected. Jail policies, including an outright ban on wearing face coverings in housing units, may have exacerbated the issue and led to Vitiello’s dismissal.

“This is a terrible thing to have to do, but I think it has to be done,” Commissioner Richard Clark said. “What happened in the jail is no small matter … it brought the county into danger, and those who work there, their families and those in the jail’s care.”

At the hearing, King told commissioners he had trusted Vitiello’s knowledge of jailing, but lost confidence after learning of the face covering policy.

Despite the controversial policy, King said the decision to recommend dismissing Vitiello wasn’t easy. Prior to the outbreak, Vitiello had a clean record as administrator and had been recommended by King for the American Jail Association leadership award.

“This is not misconduct on Michael’s part, but when this all came about … I wanted him to acknowledge this was bad,” the sheriff told commissioners. “I think it would be a challenge for us to work together in the future.”

It was not immediately clear whether Vitiello would appeal the commissioners’ vote.

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Matt Berg

Matt is a senior at UMass Amherst, studying journalism and history. Before joining the Bangor Daily News, he was the managing editor of his student newspaper and interned at the Boston Globe.