Friday, May 24, 2013
Gov. Paul LePage has given a vote of confidence to Conservation Commissioner Bill Beardsley, the former Husson University president who was told several years ago that a prominent Bangor-area minister was a different, darker person than the image he projected in public.
John Ewing / Staff Photographer
'I conveyed to the state police (later) that I had some impression at that point that Rev. Bob might have some homosexual tendencies, no more, no less.'
-- Bill Beardsley, Maine's conservation commissioner and former president of Husson University
The Rev. Bob Carlson, who was the chaplain at Husson from 1995 to 2006, sexually abused several children over 40 years, according to people interviewed by the Maine State Police. Soon after police began investigating Carlson, he committed suicide by jumping off the Penobscot Narrows Bridge on Nov. 13.
Police have closed the investigation and published their findings in a 104-page report. The report shows that people were suspicious of Carlson, yet few did anything to stop him.
The extent of Beardsley's knowledge of Carlson's alleged abuse of young boys has been questioned by investigators. Beardsley's 22 years as president at Husson overlapped with Carlson's tenure as chaplain.
A person who was interviewed by police claimed that Beardsley was told about abuse allegations involving a Husson student who was younger than 18. Beardsley flatly denies the witness' account.
"I absolutely had no knowledge of any unlawful activity by Rev. Bob Carlson," said Beardsley in an interview with The Portland Press Herald.
Beardsley has tried to explain his statements since the police report was released this week. The commissioner, who will transition out of the job when his agency merges with the Department of Agriculture Sept. 1, also has the support of LePage.
Adrienne Bennett, LePage's spokeswoman, said the governor has "the utmost confidence" in Beardsley.
"The witness in the police report has just one side of the story," Bennett said. "Commissioner Beardsley has another side."
The identity of the witness is unknown. The heavily redacted police report names only a few people who may have been told about Carlson's behavior.
Beardsley told the Press Herald that he was unaware of any wrongdoing.
He initially declined to be interviewed when he was approached by police in November, after Carlson's death. Attorney Tony Beardsley, his brother, told police at the time that the commissioner was concerned about "information getting to the media."
Tony Beardsley told police that if there was an active investigation, in which someone would be charged, his brother would talk.
Bill Beardsley later relented. Last month, he told investigators that he got a phone call in 2005 from a friend who said that Carlson "was not who he appeared to be."
Beardsley has refused to identify the friend, but investigators later determined that he was a minister in Vermont.
Beardsley said the minister did not have firsthand knowledge of any wrongdoing, but he wanted the college president to be "sensitized to Rev. Bob."
"I asked him, 'Is there any problem at Husson, is there any problem with a minor? Does this person want to talk with me? Is there any criminal behavior?' " Beardsley said Thursday. "They (the caller) said they didn't know any of that. ... I conveyed to the state police (later) that I had some impression at that point that Rev. Bob might have some homosexual tendencies, no more, no less."
Beardsley said he got an anonymous phone call about a "year and half later" that prompted Carlson's resignation from Husson in 2006.
According to the police report, Beardsley told investigators that the caller told him "(Carlson) had participated in a sexual relationship with someone years ago."
Beardsley said Thursday that he didn't have any information that Carlson was sexually abusing minors.
However, according to the report, Beardsley told police that the caller demanded that he confront Carlson with the story Beardsley had just been told or "the caller could go public with the information concerning Bob and the sexual relationship."
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