The Lincoln County Commissioners have agreed to hire an independent investigator to look into personnel issues raised by the district attorney.

The Commissioners voted 3-0 at its May 4 meeting to retain an independent investigator. The vote came after a closed-door meeting with the commissioners' attorney.

District Attorney Natasha Irving requested the hiring of an independent investigator to look into issues she said kept her out of the loop on personnel matters affecting her department. Irving said the county's actions created a hostile work environment for her staff.

The County did not provide additional information on the hiring of the independent human resources investigator.

Irving was elected district attorney in November 2018, marking the first time a Democrat won the seat, and the first time a woman has served as district attorney for Lincoln, Knox, Sagadahoc and Waldo counties.

Irving said she believes she is being treated this way because of her age, gender and politics. She campaigned on a progressive platform and said she has heard from third parties that county officials consider her to be a socialist and a feminist.

Irving said after she was elected, but before she formally took office, the county administrator went into the district attorney's office to tell employees that Irving was not their boss, and instead to report to the county administrator. That created an uncomfortable situation for the employees, because they were uncertain who their boss was.

Irving said in April 2020, she learned through a general email sent to county employees that a victim witness advocate was hired for her Lincoln County office. She said the email was a "welcome aboard" message.

"I had no idea they were handling applications or interviews," she said.

The hiring was done through the county administrator and county commissioners while Irving was working remotely, following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said it was ludicrous they did not notify her of the hiring process. She said even if not for the pandemic, she would not always be in the Lincoln County office since she has four offices — one in each county.

Irving said she was told by the county administrator that this oversight would not happen again.

But in December 2020, when the county was seeking to fill a victim witness advocate for juveniles, she learned from a third party that the county scheduled interviews. Irving said she emailed the commissioners and county administrator repeatedly, but received no response.

She said up to the day of the interviews, she was not sent the link to the online interviews.

In the end, she was able to review the first round of interviews, then participated in the second round of interviews. The prosecutor said the questions being asked by the county officials in the first round had little relevance to the position.

"They were excluding me purposefully," Irving said. The prosecutor said it was important for her to be involved in the hiring because the people who work in the office must be trusted with important, confidential legal matters.

In addition, Irving said while she was on maternity leave earlier this year, her employees were again told she was not their boss. Her victim witness advocates were also instructed not to attend a meeting with her in Rockland.

The district attorney also said an issue arose with one of the employees in her department. Irving said she could not comment publicly on specifics of the personnel matter, but the county administrator has declined to provide her the person's personnel file.

She said the county's actions violated their own hiring policies.