Former Millinocket Police Chief Craig Worster takes his oath of office in April 2019. Credit: Town of Millinocket Facebook page

The agency that oversees licensing of Maine police advised the former Millinocket police chief against creating a hostile work environment for women earlier this year, but stopped short of disciplining him because it did not have the authority to do so. 

A “letter of guidance” the Maine Criminal Justice Academy’s board issued to Craig Worster in early March advised the former chief that creating a hostile work environment for women “can lead to catastrophic consequences.” It also informed him that furnishing intoxicants that affect another person’s judgment and engaging in sexual acts with that person can constitute gross sexual assault, a Class B crime. 

Such a crime, the letter said, could serve as the basis for discipline from the academy, which has the authority to suspend or revoke police and corrections officers’ licenses.

The letter of guidance stemmed from a complaint made against Worster in 2020, the year he was fired from his position leading Millinocket’s police department. His firing came five months after former deputy police chief Janet Theriault filed a complaint and accused Worster of creating a hostile work environment. 

The details of that complaint were never made public, and Theriault received a $150,000 settlement in February 2021. Worster won his job back upon appeal the same month but had no position to return to because Millinocket had voted to disband its police department and contract with nearby East Millinocket for police services. 

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The complaint to the Maine Criminal Justice Academy is also confidential, so the nature of the allegations that led to the academy’s letter of guidance is unknown. The letter, which will remain in Worster’s academy file for 10 years, similarly doesn’t describe the circumstances that prompted it. 

Theriault declined to comment, citing the terms of her settlement, but said that the references to gross sexual assault and furnishing intoxicants did not pertain to her. 

Worster still holds an active certificate but doesn’t currently work in law enforcement or corrections in Maine, said Don Finnegan, the criminal justice academy’s training coordinator. 

The letter of guidance sheds additional light on Worster’s history with Millinocket, where he was hired as police chief in April 2019. It came a few months before Worster and John Davis, a former Millinocket town manager, sued the town in June, accusing former and current town officials, police union leaders and two residents of concocting a “campaign of disparagement” against them. 

The town council fired Davis in September 2020, three months before it dismissed Worster.  

Worster said in the lawsuit that the Maine Criminal Justice Academy had dismissed Theriault’s complaint with no findings of misconduct.

But in the letter of guidance dated March 4, board chair Brian Pellerin told Worster that while creating a hostile work environment for women didn’t constitute a disciplinary offense, such conduct “ran counter” to the academy’s values.

“A law enforcement agency relies on the mutual respect and trust of its officers to effectively serve the public and ensure the safety of its officers,” Pellerin wrote in the letter, which the Bangor Daily News obtained through a public records request. “If that trust breaks down, lives can be placed in jeopardy.”

In the document, Pellerin also advised Worster against furnishing intoxicants to a member of the public who could be influenced by his status as a police chief, and advised him that failing to obtain consent to engage in sexual activity constituted gross sexual assault. 

“A law enforcement officer risks committing gross sexual assault if he fails to obtain express consent from an acquaintance to whom he furnishes intoxicants and with whom he engages in a sexual act,” the letter read.

The academy’s board didn’t pursue disciplinary actions against Worster for sexual assault because of a lack of evidence, said Rick Desjardins, the academy’s director. 

Worster’s attorney, Ezra Willey, said the academy’s letter of guidance was one reason for his client’s lawsuit against Millinocket officials and others.

“It is quite unfortunate that the Maine Criminal Justice Academy wrote what it wrote in the so-called letter of guidance, as it was, and remains to be, general in nature,” Willey said. 

“This letter of guidance is exactly one of the many reasons that Mr. Worster has filed the lawsuit that is pending in Penobscot County Superior Court; the basis of the so-called investigation was based on false and misleading statements and was done solely to harass and intimidate then-Chief Worster.”

Traditionally, the academy has mostly punished officers for behavior that constitutes a crime.

But the Maine Legislature last year expanded the agency’s disciplinary authority to punish officers whose misconduct didn’t rise to the level of a criminal offense. 

That legislation, which took effect last October, was prompted by a BDN series that outlined how police officers escaped punishment for sexually harassing their colleagues and jail inmates, because the criminal justice academy did not have the authority to discipline officers for their misconduct. 

The new law required that the academy develop standards of conduct for new and existing police and corrections officers, violations of which could be grounds for discipline. Any findings or written decisions become public records under that law. 

The allegation that Worster created a hostile work environment didn’t fall under the new law because the academy still has to implement rules to carry it out, Desjardins said.

The academy has contracted with an outside firm to help draft those rules, he said. 

“We’ve never gone through this before in our entire history, so we have a lot of administrative rules and standards that we have to codify,” he said. 

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Lia Russell

Lia Russell is a reporter on the city desk for the Bangor Daily News. Send tips to