The city of Biddeford and its police department are facing legal action – possibly from multiple sources – in connection with allegations of sexual abuse of minors by at least one former officer.

The attorney for several people who say they were sexually abused as children by a former Biddeford police officer said he is preparing to bring a lawsuit against the department for not stopping or preventing the assaults.

“Preliminary evidence has come forward that suggested, well before some of these boys were abused, that people in senior positions knew or should have known it was taking place,” Walter McKee said. He would not divulge specifically what information he was referring to, other than to say it was not solely an allegation by a victim.

“I’m not saying it was a hunch or gross speculation or anything like that. They either knew it was happening, or turned a blind eye to it,” McKee said.

At the same time, the attorney for that former officer also is scrutinizing what information police officials have provided to the news media and to one outspoken victim – disclosures that could result in legal action if he believes confidentiality statutes were violated.

Biddeford officials have had little comment about the allegations – saying as recently as Friday that they cannot comment on an ongoing investigation – except that the police department has referred them to the Maine Attorney General’s Office. A call to the city’s attorney, Keith Jacques, on Friday afternoon was not returned.

The Attorney General’s Office confirmed Thursday that it is investigating an allegation that a former Biddeford officer sexually assaulted a young teenage boy in the late 1990s.

The issue recently came to public attention when Matt Lauzon, a Boston businessman, began posting on Facebook about his alleged experiences. Lauzon has said in interviews that Stephen Dodd, then a Biddeford police sergeant, sexually assaulted him in the woods near their homes more than a decade ago.

Dodd was suspended from the police department and investigated by the Attorney General’s Office after a similar abuse allegation by a different person in 2002. However, Dodd was never charged and has no criminal record in Maine.

Dodd, now 57, retired from the Biddeford Police Department in 2003 and surrendered his certificate of eligibility to work as a law enforcement officer in Maine. His last known address was in Lakeland, Florida.

After Lauzon brought his allegations to police last October, the Biddeford Police Department forwarded his complaint to the Attorney General’s Office for investigation.

Lauzon has escalated his criticism of the Biddeford police for its handling of the issue and said in a Facebook post Friday that he would continue his media offensive if Police Chief Roger Beaupre and Deputy Chief JoAnne Fisk were not suspended.

Questions about whether the city was planning such a move were referred to the city’s attorney.

Kennebunk lawyer Gene Libby said in an April 10 letter to Beaupre that he represents Dodd.

He requested all correspondence related to the release of Dodd’s employment records, copies of all communications with Lauzon and copies of all correspondence, electronic or otherwise, with any journalist. The latter request does not specify a time frame or topic.

State law governs the release of personnel information but says that any final discipline in a public employee’s record is public information.

Libby’s office said he would not be available until Tuesday.

Since Lauzon went public with his accusations, others have come forward.

Rick Alexander, now 52, of South Portland said he told police 13 years ago that as a teenager he was abused by Dodd, including when Dodd was a reserve officer for Old Orchard Beach. Alexander was interviewed twice by an investigator for the Attorney General’s Office. But the alleged conduct happened in the 1970s, which would mean it cannot be prosecuted because the six-year statute of limitations in place at that time had expired.

That limitation was removed by the Legislature in the early 1990s. That means sexual crimes against children which occurred in the late 1990s would still be eligible for prosecution, though such cases can be difficult to bring because of challenges gathering evidence necessary to get a conviction so many years later.

Such crimes would also be candidates for a lawsuit.

McKee said he now represents three people in addition to Lauzon who are making allegations of sexual abuse by former Biddeford officers. He would not identify his other clients.

McKee said that for any sex acts against children committed after the mid-1980s, the victims can sue not only the perpetrator but also others who may be responsible, “namely the police department. That’s what we’re going to do here.”

McKee said he is conducting a civil investigation on behalf of his clients that has uncovered information he says makes the department culpable.

McKee said the department also failed in its role as a mandated reporter. If a state-mandated reporter – like a teacher, day care provider, health care provider or police officer – has reason to believe a child has been abused, he or she is obligated to report it to the Department of Health and Human Services, he said. He said he has found no evidence that the Biddeford Police Department made such a referral.

McKee said many of the witnesses his firm has contacted as part of the case are still in the Biddeford area. Even people who allege abuse that happened too long ago for criminal prosecution may be important witnesses, helping to shore up the cases of people who were abused more recently, he said.

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