Constitution lawyer questions Governor's ability to remove sheriffs

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- A constitution lawyer questions statements from Maine Governor Paul LePage that he can fire county sheriffs for not following requests from Federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.

Governor LePage issued an executive order for sheriffs to follow ICE directives. 

The executive order states: “It is the intent of this Administration to promote rather than hinder the enforcement of federal immigration law . . . Employees and officials of the State of Maine shall cooperate with employees and officials of the federal government on all matters pertinent to immigration, subject only to any limitations imposed by statutory law or by the Constitutions of Maine or the United States.”

Under Article IX, Section 10 of Maine constitution, the Governor has the ability to remove the sheriff, after he officiates a hearing, which may occur after someone files a formal complaint against a sheriff and the sheriff is then notified.

"It certainly vests an awful lot of power in the Governor and it should just be hoped that the Governor won't use that power for now a political partisan end," said Marshall Tinkle, a constitution lawyer.

Maine law gives the governor the authority to direct county sheriffs, and the Constitution of the State of Maine gives the governor broad authority to remove sheriffs from office who are not faithfully executing their duties. (See Article XI, Section 10, “Removal of sheriffs from office and replacement.”)

“Under the authority granted to me by law, I am directing you to cooperate with federal immigration officials and follow the provisions of Executive Order 001-2011,” stated Governor LePage in a press release. “As a State established under the authority of the Constitutions of the United States of America and of the State of Maine, the State must do its duty and work cooperatively at the Federal, State, and Local level to enforce the laws that maintain our nation’s sovereignty and keep us safe.”

"Sheriffs, like a lot of us, are employees at will. In this case, it's the will of the people very four years, but even more directly, it's at the will of the Governor as long as he can find someone to fill the complaint," said Tinkle.

 

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