The following is a transcript of a phone conversation between Oxford County Sheriff Christopher Wainwright and Deputy Tyler Fournier obtained by the Bangor Daily News. The sheriff called Fournier after the deputy cited a woman in August 2022 for a traffic violation.
The sheriff had asked the deputy to go easy on her, according to the Nov. 7 call, which had made the deputy uncomfortable and prompted him to report the sheriff’s request to a sergeant. In the nine-minute call, the sheriff told Fournier he should not have reported him and instead should have come to him for “clarification.” He told the deputy that, as sheriff, he had the authority to give orders as he saw fit.
While the sheriff in this call said the woman’s traffic matter was being handled by the district attorney’s office, it was not. That’s because it was not a criminal matter. It was actually handled by the judicial branch’s violations bureau. Her traffic infraction was dismissed May 3.
The sheriff also cited Brian MacMaster, the former chief of investigations at the attorney general’s office, as saying he told the sheriff there’s nothing illegal about “fixing tickets.” MacMaster, who now works for the attorney general’s office part-time, did not return two phone calls Friday morning.
On Friday the sheriff apologized for the way he spoke to Fournier.
“The events from the days before the 2022 election have caused me much hand-wringing, and remorse, but my actions and choices were mine alone, and I alone am responsible for them. I have promised the County Commissioners, and today I promise the people of Oxford County, that I will be proactive and do better. I will be participating in management training classes to gain a better perspective on workplace dynamics. I will be engaging in other continuing education and professional development opportunities to help me to improve myself as a professional, and as a person,” he said in a statement.
The recording transcript follows:
Deputy Tyler Fournier: Hey Sheriff, it’s Tyler.
Sheriff Christopher Wainwright: Hey. Do you got a minute?
Fournier: Yeah, I got a minute. Yep.
Wainwright: OK, well, first off, I just want to say you’re not in any trouble or anything. I just want to clear the air.
Wainwright: I got a complaint from Sergeant Ontengco that you’re very upset and hurt that I asked you to fix a ticket.
Wainwright: I’m gonna, I’m just gonna tell you my interpretation of it. And then you, you know, you feel free. So I spoke to you about, I believe her last name is Coffin now, but I’m not sure. Audrey Coffin.
Wainwright: And the way it was relayed to me was she was out going shopping with the girls, and they’re picking up her sister who’s got stage 4 cancer, which I know who’s now in the hospital is probably not going to make it. She’s gonna die. But anyways, that they, they were, they stopped at Towle’s, and picked up a six pack of twisted tea. They get in the car, and the girls were going shopping with her, picking her up, and they opened up a twisted tea or two or whatever. And at some point, you pulled them over right after that.
Fournier: Yeah, yup.
Wainwright: So what I just said to you, unless you heard something differently was, “Hey, I don’t know when this goes to court, or it has yet, but if it does, if you could do anything for it, I’d greatly appreciate it.”
Fournier: Yup, OK.
Wainwright: Now, I can I can tell you this, is that from the attorney general’s office, I can shred any frickin’ traffic ticket I want. You guys work at my discretion.
Wainwright: So there’s no fixing tickets. There’s nothing illegal. There’s nothing wrong with that. And I got that from Brian MacMaster’s mouth to my ears.
Wainwright: So and I didn’t ask you to do that. It’s already in the court system with the DA’s office. My thing to you was, if you feel like you can do something for her, go ahead, if you can, meaning it could be a deferred disposition. It could be a lesser fine. It could be whatever. But if you think that I’m trying to press you to do that, you definitely got the wrong impression of that. And I feel like I just wish you would have said something to me. Versus now it goes up through, and I feel like now people are making a big deal out of something, which it isn’t. I don’t have a boss, and I don’t have a boss. So Ontengco complaining to the chief about me is not doing anything. And I have that discretion, if I had wanted to. And I think if I had wanted you to do something I would have told you directly to do it. I think you know me well enough that way.
Wainwright: So I was just, if she was an asshole to you, Tyler, then don’t do a goddamn thing. Advocate to have her frickin’ hung. I don’t care. But it was just, I told you my point. She’s a good person, my experience with her, and if there’s anything you can do, I’d appreciate it. If you did or do, if you do something or you don’t, I’ll probably never know about it. And it was, that was the end of it. That was the end of our conversation. So just in the future, if you have an issue, please don’t hesitate to ask me. If you took something the wrong way or you, however you want to do it, but I can assure you that if I wanted that ticket disposed of, I would have called the DA directly. I would have taken care of it ahead of time and done something else with it. So you, you tell me your side now.
Fournier: What? Yeah, I guess. I was a little taken aback at it at first because no one’s ever approached me that way before. And I didn’t know what to do. So you know, I mentioned it to Jerry and then, you know, I don’t know, I don’t know what to say other than, you know, my intent was never to, like I’m trying to stay politically out of things, I guess. I don’t even know what I’m saying. I feel like I’m babbling. It just, it felt uneasy to me, and I, I should have asked more clarifying questions, I guess. So I don’t know, I mean.
Wainwright: OK. Well, I just say in the future if you have any, if you have anything you can please with the conversation you and I had directly. I felt like you could have spoken to me directly about it. But me getting emails that says “official complaint about the sheriff” and, you know, alleging misconduct, I really, seriously have a huge problem with that. I don’t think that’s where our conversation was. If you feel it was, then you apparently you don’t know me. I guess more than anything, I guess I’m truly hurt by that. In 30-something years, I’ve never had anyone say that and take it that way. So I guess, duly noted.
Fournier: That’s not my, sheriff, that’s not my intent at all.
Wainwright: Well, you went to a sergeant who apparently has his own agenda, which I’ll just leave it at that, and not only did [inaudible] receive emails, text messages and Spillman messages, three forms of communication to make sure that the chief knows that he’s filing a complaint against me, which he can do and that, it is what it is, I have that discretion. And I don’t work for the county commissioners, and I don’t work for the chief deputy. You all work for me. And if I tell you not to write any fucking tickets ever again, you won’t write any tickets ever again. You know what I’m saying, like, that’s the sheriff. It’s a constitutional office. So I’m just, I’m not trying to be an ass about it. But I’m just saying is, that if you have a question, that was conversation, there was no subordinates involved. It was between you and me. It was no one in between. That in the future, just call me, ask for clarification, do something. I think that would have been a much easier and better approach.
Fournier: Yes, in the future, I will do that. But again, I was talking to my [inaudible]. You know, because we talk about everything. And I explained exactly pretty much what you, you told me about the situation. And so I didn’t know what to do at that point. Does that, does that makes sense?
Oh, you there?
Wainwright: …came by this I’m not quite sure.
Fournier: Can you? Can you hear me?
Wainwright: Yes, I can.
Fournier: OK, I lost you for about 20 seconds there.
Wainwright: OK, I’m just saying is that I feel like if you can come to me about cruisers and light bars that you can come to me and say, hey, could you just clarify this? I’m not comfortable with this. Or whatever it is. I mean, I think that’s an easier approach then then the path that was taken.
Fournier: Did you, did you hear me, the other part about me? Just, you know, there’s, there’s no secrets between like, my shift, we talk about everything. And—
Wainwright: Yeah. And it wasn’t meant to be a secret. But I felt like it was a conversation directly between me and you. So if you needed clarification, or you had an issue with it, I feel like you could have come to me directly.
Fournier: You’re right. I will do that next time. Again, I was just talking to, you know, Jerry, and—
Wainwright: Well, according to Ontengco, then you, you called him upset.
Fournier: Well, I called him, and I told him the situation. And I said, I don’t know what to do, and it doesn’t feel right. I’m not, I’m not, sheriff, I like you. Don’t get me wrong, like, I’m not against you in any, any means. You know, I just want to do my job and do it the best that I can.
Wainwright: Yeah, but do you feel like I don’t have the authority to have a conversation like that with you?
Fournier: I have no idea.
Wainwright: Do you not feel like that you work at the sheriff’s discretion and that I dictate policy?
Fournier: Well, I guess if that’s, if that’s, I don’t know enough about constitutional law and what the sheriff can and —
Wainwright: OK, well, I guess, I guess my suggestion is brush up on it. Read your policy and procedure manual, and in the future, if you have an issue, I feel like you should come to me directly.
Wainwright: OK? All right. Thank you.
Fournier: Thank you, sheriff.