Like everyone else in Biddeford, State senator David Dutremble is troubled by the allegations of child sexual abuse that has roiled this city for the past several weeks.
On June 23, Dutremble wrote on Facebook: “The more we dig, the sicker I become with my city!!”
I called him out on that post because he is indicting the entire city for allegations that primarily focus on two former police officers.
Perhaps Dutremble is upset with the city council that voted 6-2 not to suspend the police chief and deputy police chief.
Perhaps he envies Mayor Alan Casavant’s strong popular support.
Perhaps he is angry with the police chief or the deputy police chief, even though Maine’s Attorney General says they have taken all the right steps during the ongoing investigation.
But one thing is for sure: Dutremble won’t attack the reputation of his employer, the city’s fire department.
His disgust is selective, despite a recent post on the Portland Press Herald’s Facebook page in which a Biddeford man alleged that a “senior fire department official” attempted to molest him when he was a teenager.
But he has been very vocal, and has repeatedly expressed his indignation with the Biddeford City Council for doing “nothing” to help the cause of “justice” for the community.
From the council chamber’s podium, Dutremble has expressed outrage and contempt toward the council. And he promised, he would get something done in Augusta.
A career firefighter, Dutremble is by all accounts a good city employee, But a careful look at the legislative session that will soon end calls into serious question his abilities as a legislator.
Who let the dogs out?
Earlier this year, Dutremble introduced a bill (L.D. 107) to name the Labrador retriever as the official state dog. State Rep. William Tuell of East Machias described L.D. 107 as “a waste of time.”
An Arundel dog breeder agreed with Tuell, telling the Portland Press Herald that, “It is stupid. There are so many other issues.”
The Joint Standing Committee on State and Local Government quickly killed the bill by a vote of 9-3.
Although Dutremble was not able to pass the dog bill, a new group of his supporters expected him to deliver the goods on a topic about which he has been extremely vocal: the alleged sexual abuse of minors by former members of the Biddeford Police Department.
Now bear in mind, there is no love lost between the city’s police and fire departments.
For the past several months, alleged victim Matt Lauzon has spearheaded the issue of child sexual abuse by two former police officers, and he has been effusive in his praise of Dutremble, at every social media opportunity calling him “courageous” and a “hero.”
It appeared as though Lauzon had found his ideal champion, and that Dutremble had found his ideal cause. Lots of TV cameras, and how can you go wrong trying to help victims of sexual abuse?
The controversy held great promise to cement Dutremble’s reputation as a take-charge legislator who gets things done.
The senator comes out swinging
Dutremble seemed to get off to a very fast start. On May 7, Bangor Daily News reporter Beth Brogan wrote that Dutremble’s legislative staff was “already investigating the existing law and possible changes.”
Lauzon kept the community updated on Dutremble’s progress via Facebook, making it clear that thanks to the senator, Lauzon was meeting in Augusta with the leadership of the Legislature, and that legislative action would be forthcoming very soon.
Each of Lauzon’s admiring Facebook posts about Dutremble seemed to bring an immediate Facebook “Like” from the take-charge and image conscious senator.
There was even a very high profile meeting with Governor LePage on May 12, once again covered by all the TV stations and the state’s biggest newspapers. Pretty heady stuff. Dutremble’s momentum seemed unstoppable.
On May 19, Dutremble confidently strode into a Biddeford City Council meeting, and he was visibly seething. He wasted no time reprimanding the mayor and council for their pitifully poor job performance. It was very theatrical and dramatic. At the same time, he portrayed himself as a bold, decisive leader.
“In regard to state level assistance, I am working, and looking into the best avenue for an independent investigation of the Biddeford Police Department,” he told the council.
While grabbing headlines and severely scolding city officials, Dutremble’s star seemed to be shining very brightly. In fact, one of Lauzon’s staunchest supporters enthusiastically told a city official — in no uncertain terms — that the senator was working hard on a joint resolution from both the Maine Senate and the Maine House of Representatives.
This resolution would enjoy near unanimous support in both chambers of the legislature, the resident bragged. It would call on Attorney General Janet Mills to step away from the investigation of the Biddeford Police Department, and to let the Maine State Police take over the investigation.
With Dutremble having taken charge, the AG’s office would be kicked off the case. Wow, that’s pretty impressive legislative clout.
Bad news for Dutremble
In most cases when nothing happens, that’s not news. But this particular “nothing” will indeed be news in Biddeford.
As of Monday, Dutremble had filed neither a bill nor a resolution. In a Facebook post on Tuesday evening, Dutremble stated that he was not working on a bill, but rather a “letter.”
A letter to whom?
Hard to believe. After going out on a limb just about as far as you can go, the Maine Legislature will soon recess for the summer and Senator David Dutremble will tiptoe back into town completely empty-handed.
When I first heard about the potential joint resolution a few weeks ago, a colleague of mine called a media person who is wise to all that goes on in Augusta. The reporter literally burst out laughing and said, “That’ll never happen.”
The same colleague has access to a direct line into the Governor’s office, and into the leadership of the Maine State Senate. Calls were made to see how much progress the senator’s resolution had made, and the response from this staffer was shocking.
“Yeah, we’ve heard rumblings that Dutremble is interested in this issue, but nobody’s seen anything in writing,” the staffer said. “Nothing exists, not even a bill summary or just a title. One thing’s for sure, nobody’s touching that with a 10-foot pole.”
Nothing in writing? How could that be?
Biddeford’s senator had repeatedly chastised the mayor and city council in public for “doing nothing,” but he never filed a bill? Not even a bill summary or even a simple bill title?
What about the resolution — that was never in writing, either?
Now, it is possible that Dutremble has spent weeks working on a letter, but another electronic records search was completed by the Governor’s office and Senate staff just two days ago, and that yielded no results. There’s no record of anything having to do with a joint resolution and Senator David Dutremble.
To the likes of Lauzon and his supporters, it must be incomprehensible that Dutremble utterly failed to produce. But to those who understand the basic rules of politics, Dutremble’s shockingly elementary mistakes explain everything.
A failure to communicate
David Dutremble is a state senator. You’d think he’d be astute enough to know that his party is in a life and death struggle, if not with the Republicans, then certainly with Republican Governor Paul LePage.
The Attorney General, Janet Mills, is a high profile Democrat. She and LePage have been in an ugly war on any number of issues. Their battles litter the landscape to such an extent that it’s no exaggeration to say Mills and LePage may be the two most bitter political enemies in Maine.
The only politician in Maine seemingly unaware of this conflict is David Dutremble.
Dutremble apparently thought it was okay to approach Democratic legislative leaders to help pass a resolution that would hand the Democrats a huge political defeat, and hand the governor a huge political victory.
Think about it. Dutremble’s resolution would have removed Mills from an important investigation (thereby calling into question her competence in all investigations). The Governor could take the credit for showing leadership by having the meeting with Lauzon, and the resolution — approved by most Democrats — would give the governor valuable ammo in his continuing claim that Mills is unfit to be AG.
There is no way that any resolution or bill was ever going to be passed, or even brought to the floor of either chamber. It was never going to see the light of day.
Senator Dutremble’s unsophisticated legislative idea painfully illustrated his lack of understanding of how things work in Augusta.
Playing checkers, not chess
Matt Lauzon’s meeting with LePage took place well before the “news” surfaced that Dutremble would get near unanimous support for his bipartisan resolution.
It remains unclear what role Dutremble played in arranging Lauzon’s meeting with LePage. Maybe it was a large role, maybe it was miniscule, but one thing about the meeting is crystal clear: The governor barred Dutremble from attending.
At the time, Dutremble’s naïve supporters were jubilant that the meeting with the governor had taken place. They thought they were on their way to “justice.” All they had to do was keep following Senator Dutremble.
Nobody seemed worried that LePage had barred Dutremble from the meeting. None of them, including Dutremble, seemed to understand the significance of what had transpired. None of them seemed to understand that the Governor and the legislative leaders were playing chess, while Dutremble and some of Lauzon’s supporters were playing checkers.
None of them apparently even considered the idea that LePage gladly took full advantage of a political freebie, personally gift-wrapped by Dutremble.
The governor was able to embarrass a Democratic senator, take another shot at the AG, express concern about sexual abuse and bask in the resulting media coverage — all in one neat little package.
Oblivious, Dutremble pressed on, “crafting” the near-unanimous resolution that seems not to have been written, the non-resolution he promised a trusting constituent was right around the corner.
Outside, looking in
Thanks to his clumsiness during this legislative session, David Dutremble is now on the outside looking in, and that position is probably permanent.
In Augusta, memories are long.
Dutremble’s repeated calls to get the AG’s office “off the case” in Biddeford was a major political faux pas, and the total cost of that mistake to his full constituency is yet to be calculated.
One certain cost is the people of Biddeford now have less influence because Dutremble now has zero influence. That’s a price we all pay.
But the senator also failed to see that in trying to pass this ill-fated legislation, his reputation is now directly tied to the reputation of the man whose cause he has decided to champion.
Every time Dutremble walks into a room to talk about sexual abuse — whether in Biddeford or in Augusta — he is now equated with Matt Lauzon. They are one and the same.
Unfortunately, while Dutremble was plotting to get unanimous support for his resolution, Lauzon and his supporters were running amok on social media and in public meetings.
Word gets around, even in Augusta
Despite many claims that he’s about to go “professional,” Lauzon keeps acting like a junior high school kid.
At a forum hosted by Dutremble, Lauzon publicly speculated that the Biddeford police chief had had homosexual relations with a current police commissioner, and with a former police officer.
Lauzon also intimated that the chief had participated in group sex. He intimated that a Maine district judge had a homosexual relationship with Biddeford’s mayor. He publicly speculated that Biddeford’s mayor, a former teacher at the city’s high school, had slept with his students.
One of Lauzon’s supporters came to a city council meeting, and in the most foul, graphic and detestable street language, proclaimed from the podium his certainty that Biddeford’s mayor and police chief currently and frequently engage in oral sex.
Similar examples of Lauzon’s “dialogue” are legion, but it sickens the stomach to list each instance. And each instance has been a costly chink in Dutremble’s armor.
No matter how valid the cause, no bill will ever be passed in Augusta with proponents who carry themselves in such a fashion.
After one city council meeting, as the mayor was being interviewed by television reporters, Lauzon ducked and hid behind the cameras, popping out like a jack-in-the-box to make faces at Casavant as he answered questions.
Absolutely no filter or maturity. Absolutely no decorum and common decency, and absolutely no common sense.
Unfortunately, to the detriment of a very serious issue that deserves sober and mature discussion, Lauzon and some of his supporters keep shooting themselves in the foot, over and over again, inflicting more and more damage on Dutremble’s political reputation and, more importantly, the pending investigation by Maine’s attorney general.
Not understanding that word gets around, and that the media and many others are completely appalled by the crass and boorish social media dialogue that Lauzon has been fomenting, the senator finds himself between a rock and a hard place.
He can’t turn back now, and Lauzon’s posse has proven that it cannot change its stripes. They, and their behavior, will determine Dutremble’s political future.
One new law, and it isn’t Dutremble’s
It is clear that on the issue of sexual abuse, Biddeford’s senator accomplished absolutely nothing in this legislative session.
Meanwhile, early in the process, Biddeford’s city council asked Dutremble to file emergency legislation that would ease state restrictions on discussing an ongoing criminal investigation.
He didn’t do it.
The city council also asked him to file emergency legislation that would keep convicted pedophiles from living too close to public parks and playgrounds where young children congregate.
He didn’t do it.
And there’s no record of his introducing a joint resolution that supposedly was going to be almost unanimous.
So, what did he do?
He repeatedly berated Biddeford’s mayor and city council for “doing nothing.” Apparently he didn’t notice that Biddeford passed a new ordinance that bars convicted pedophiles from living within 750 feet of a public park or playground where young children congregate. It’s now the law in Biddeford.
Meanwhile, Dutremble’s wife announced that her husband had allowed her to read all the victim statements he has collected, the same confidential victim statements he has refused to hand over to the Attorney General’s office, thereby raising the legitimate question of whether he is impeding an ongoing criminal investigation.
Apparently, Dutremble believes that Attorney General Mills is either incompetent or not trustworthy.
Senator Dutremble doesn’t get to introduce new bills Augusta until next January, and his joint resolution will again have no chance.
One thing’s for sure, with the Legislature almost recessed and his opportunity to make a difference having completely evaporated, it’ll be interesting to see if he goes to the next city council meeting to condemn and berate the mayor and council for not doing enough in their positions as servants to the citizens of Biddeford.
And remember Dutremble’s own words: he is “sick” with his city, which begs the question why would he want to represent us in Augusta?
Considering the situation, Dutremble should be applauded for his desire to get something done. He wanted to do a good deed, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
But criticizing the council for “doing nothing” and coming home from Augusta with nothing makes him a hypocrite.
Even more disturbing is the idea that Dutremble’s fumble likely impeded the process of justice now being reviewed by the attorney general’s office. It is a lose-lose situation.
David Dutremble is an exemplary city employee but, regrettably, he is proving to be a legislator who can’t get anything done.
As citizens who have been paying close attention to this explosive issue, and considering Dutremble’s lofty proclamations, an explanation from the senator is the very least we deserve.