A 17-year veteran of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office who was a deputy of the year was indicted this week on 22 counts related to the sexual abuse of three minor girls.

The alleged abuse took place over 14 years and involved furnishing marijuana to one of the girls at least eight times, according to the indictment against 46-year-old Kenneth L. Hatch III of Whitefield that was handed down by a Knox County grand jury in Rockland Tuesday.

Hatch was arrested in June on two counts of sexual abuse and taken to the Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset, where he was later released on $50,000 unsecured bail. Since then, Hatch has been placed on paid administrative leave by Sheriff Todd Brackett.

He is expected to appear in court Aug. 25 in Wiscasset.

A court affidavit in support of the June arrest signed by Peter P. Lizanecz, a detective with the Maine Attorney General’s Office, said his investigation established probable cause to believe Hatch had sex with a 14-year-old girl on two occasions between September 2013 and January 2014.

Lizanecz states that the encounters took place in the back seat of Hatch’s cruiser.

The sexual assaults involving two other girls began in 2000, soon after Hatch began working for the Sheriff’s Office, according to the court indictment provided by the Maine Attorney General’s Office.

Hatch is charged with 11 counts of sexual abuse of a minor; eight counts of aggravated furnishing in Schedule Z drugs (marijuana); and three counts of unlawful sexual contact. All of the charges are Class C crimes, with the exception being unlawful sexual contact, a Class B crime.

Court records state that the sexual abuse incidents took place from 2000 through 2014.

“I really can’t comment further on this case, but I can say that there will be an internal investigation to determine if there were any violations of administrative policies,” Brackett said, adding that the internal investigation will be conducted by another law enforcement agency.

Hatch has been working as a patrol deputy for about five years, the sheriff said. Before that, he worked as detective sergeant.

The District Attorney’s Office for Lincoln County, which works closely with deputies when criminal cases are being investigated, will not handle the case. The Maine Attorney General’s Office will prosecute Hatch to avoid any perception of a conflict of interest. Assistant Attorney General John Risler, who presented the case to the grand jury, will take the lead.

Brackett said that Hatch was named the department’s Deputy of the Year for 2015, receiving the annual award early this year. In April, Hatch and three other deputies also were recognized for outstanding community service during a county commissioner’s meeting, an article in the Lincoln County News reported.

At that commissioners’ meeting, Brackett presented a meritorious award to Hatch and Deputy Brian Collamore for helping an elderly Whitefield man who was trying to harm himself in March 2015.