The University of Southern Maine is assessing the job status of an associate director of a Portland-based national child welfare organization after the man was accused of exposing himself to a group of teenage girls at a Nebraska hotel Monday.
Steven Preister, 68, lives in Washington, D.C., and works for the National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement from a home office. He reports to the organization’s central office, which is administered by the University of Southern Maine’s Muskie School of Public Service, university spokesman Bob Caswell said Thursday.
Preister was arrested Monday night in Lincoln, Neb., after he confronted four girls ages 14 and 15 at the hotel wearing nothing but a T-shirt and yelled at them for being too loud, according to Lincoln Police Officer Katie Flood.
The confrontation took place as the girls came out of a stairwell at the Cornhusker Marriott around 9:45 p.m. Preister then followed the girls to their room and continued to lecture them and tried to stop the girls from closing their hotel room door, Flood said.
“During the incident, Steven (Preister) was intoxicated and not wearing pants. He was dressed only in a T-shirt, that stopped above the waist, exposing his genitals,” Flood said in a written statement.
Another hotel guest heard the disturbance and opened a door to see Preister following the girls and yelling at them. Two adult chaperones also saw what happened, according to police.
The girls were staying at the hotel while attending a national leadership conference.
“These are serious charges,” Caswell said. “While we just found out about it, we are reviewing the incident and are gathering facts. We’ll take appropriate actions, and what those are remain to be seen.”
Nebraska attorney Sean Reagan, who was retained by Preister, declined to comment on the case when reached by phone.
A prosecutor, John McQuinn of the Lincoln, Neb., city attorney’s office, also declined to comment on the case.
Preister has worked for the last 10 years for the National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement, which is funded by the U.S. Department Health and Human Services through a grant to the Muskie Institute at USM. Preister works mostly outside of Maine and has never held a staff or faculty position at the university. He does not interact with students and reports to the administrative office in Portland for meetings two to three times a year for two to three days at a time, Caswell said.
Preister’s annual salary is $104,488. The overall budget of the program, now in the fifth year of a five-year grant, was $1.4 million, but was reduced in recent across-the-board federal budget cuts to just over $1.3 million, according to Judie O’Malley, a spokeswoman for the university.
“The staff in the center work in all 50 states. They provide training and research services to support organizations that are connected to the welfare of youth and child services,” Caswell said. “Staff members associated with the center are not involved in the direct delivery of services to children or families.”
The staff of the National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement works with high-level administrators in Health and Human Services in several states, doing consulting on how officials can apply their research work to issues related to families and children. The Muskie Institute has oversight over the program, making USM the authority for personnel decisions, Caswell said.
Preister was in Lincoln to provide technical help to the Nebraska Health and Human Services Department, the agency’s spokeswoman Kathie Osterman told the Associated Press.
Preister pleaded not guilty in a Nebraska court Tuesday to misdemeanor charges of disturbing the peace and public nudity. He was released on $100 bail, according to the court’s online records. He has no prior criminal record in Maine.
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