Franklin Countys First News

Letter to the Editor: Troubled by public money for private business

How do you feel about using taxpayer funds or government employees to run a private business?

That is exactly the question I ponder. After vocally speaking out about some of the things I have seen over the years with Sheriff Nichols while discussing the upcoming election, I was told about an interesting situation going on at the Sheriff’s Office. Of course, I have taken the time to do a little digging and here is what I found out: Franklin County Sheriff’s Office currently has a patrol lieutenant, who owns his own dog breeding company called Von Woden Kennels. According to his website and Facebook pages, he specializes in service animals, and has a history of selling canines to law enforcement agencies. This made me wonder: what has Franklin County bought from Von Woden Kennels? A brief review of the detailed expenses from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office shows there are boarding fees paid to Von Woden Kennels. Obviously, I find it very questionable to see administrators from a government organization hiring themselves to provide the services needed for their agency.

As this topic really troubled me, I learned that Ed Hastings was questioning Sheriff Nichols during the past budget process about the use of county personnel to train police dogs. Sheriff Nichols reported that they do partner with a Non-Profit organization called All Points Maine Police Canines to provide training, for not only Franklin County dogs, though for other area agencies, some of whom buy dogs from Von Woden Kennels.

During the budget meeting, Sheriff Nichols said he allows two of his staff members use their work time to help run the non-profit canine training program. According to their website and Facebook page, this takes about 840 hours per year, per officer. Sheriff Nichols told budget committee members and the public, this does not cost the taxpayers any money because one is a salaried employee and the other shifts his work time to avoid overtime.  (This certainly reduces the number deputies on patrol or protecting our citizens, so to me, there is a cost. This does not even consider the Sheriff’s recent request to add another position for more coverage that cost $100,000 of taxpayer money.)

A search of All Points Maine Police Canines revealed that the owner of Von Woden Kennels, is the registered agent for this Non-Profit organization. (This is equivalent to being the owner) This would appear to foster an opportunity for Von Wooden Kennels to sell dogs, train them on taxpayer funded time and have the full resources of the county taxpayers to support his private business.

What is even more disturbing; the same lieutenant is Sheriff Nichols campaign treasurer. It now becomes clear why the lieutenant is working so hard to discredit Ed Hastings in the upcoming election. While the lieutenant is repeatedly saying "do your research," I do not think he wants us to look too closely. He has a lot to lose - personally and professionally - if Hastings is elected which explains an awful lot about his outspoken and aggressive point of view.

Katelyn MacDonald

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