Disgraced Capitol Police Chief Russ Gauvin has been given what amounts to a two-month paid vacation for spreading far-right conspiracy theories and racist hate-speech online. Gov. Janet Mills and her Commissioner of Public Safety, Mike Sauschuck — Gauvin’s longtime friend and boss — are refusing to comment on Gauvin’s employment status or why it’s taking so long to conduct a review of his behavior.
Mainer exposed Gauvin’s far-right Facebook posts on Jan. 15. He was removed from duty and placed on administrative leave a few days later, after state lawmakers wrote a letter to Sauschuck demanding action. In 2019, Gauvin’s annual salary, including benefits, was over $112,000. There’s no indication that his pay or benefits have been suspended during the investigation, and state officials are refusing to respond to press inquiries about the matter.
Last summer and fall, Gauvin published social-media posts claiming mask-mandates imposed by Mills and others to stop the spread of COVID-19 are part of a sinister political plot. He publicly expressed “zero confidence” in the results of last fall’s presidential election, feeding the baseless conspiracy theories that led to the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Gauvin also publicly endorsed a comment by a former Maine cop who wrote on Gauvin’s Facebook page that Black Lives Matter activists should be shot dead and napalmed, followed by expedited criminal convictions for any federal, state or local officials who allow anti-racist protests to occur. Gauvin’s Facebook account was deleted hours after Mainer contacted him for comment. He subsequently released a statement apologizing for the posts, which he acknowledged “can be seen as inconsistent with my professional responsibilities.”
Gauvin also claimed that he deleted his account on Parler, a rival social-media site popular with racists and far-right provocateurs banned from more mainstream platforms. Parler was taken offline earlier this year after its hosting provider, Amazon Web Services, determined it was spreading posts that “clearly encourage and incite violence.”
An initial search of data hacked from Parler before the site was banned revealed no posts by Gauvin, but Mainer’s investigation of his activity on the site is ongoing.
On Feb. 1, Mainer reported that Gauvin applied his far-right political views to try to suppress a 2018 protest against Trump at the state capitol in Augusta. Gauvin demanded that Women’s March organizers buy an insurance policy covering millions of dollars’ worth of potential liability due to what he called a credible threat of “terrorism” at the event. Gauvin backed down on that demand only after a lawyer with the ACLU of Maine challenged its legality.
By contrast, Capitol Police officers openly expressed support for anti-mask activists who protested at the governor’s residence in December, vandalizing the property with contaminated PPE. No arrests were made or citations issued.
“Yesterday, Capital [sic] Police REAFFIRMED their disdain for this governor by not intervening in our MASK CEREMONY,” an anti-mask organizer wrote at the time. “In fact, their humorous accolades and chuckles as they were FORCED to clean it up after only solidified our resolve to continue exhausting any and all peaceful remedies to the VIRUS in the Blaine House.”