Gov. Paul LePage has given a vote of confidence to Department of 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.

The Rev. Bob Carlson, the chaplain at Husson from 1995 to 2006, sexually abused several children over the last 40 years, according to individuals interviewed by Maine State Police. They launched an investigation of Carlson, shortly before he committed suicide by jumping off the Penobscot Narrows Bridge Nov. 13.

Police have closed the investigation and published its findings in a 104-page report. The report shows individuals were suspicious of Carlson, yet few did anything to stop him.

The extent of Beardsley’s knowledge of Carlson’s alleged sexual proclivity for young boys has been questioned by police investigators. Beardsley’s 22 years as president at Husson overlapped with Carlson’s tenure as chaplain. An individual interviewed by police claimed that the former college president was told about abuse allegations involving a Husson student under the age of 18.

Beardsley flatly denies the witness’s account.

“I absolutely had no knowledge of any unlawful activity by Rev. Bob Carlson,” said Beardsley in an interview with Maine Today Media.

Beardsley has attempted 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 had 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 individuals that may have been told about Carlson’s behavior.

Beardsley told Maine Today that he was unaware of any wrongdoing.

Beardsley initially declined to be interviewed when he was approached by police in November, after Carlson’s death. His brother, attorney Tony Beardsley, 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, one in which someone would be charged, his brother would talk.

Bill Beardsley later relented. Last month, he told investigators that he received a phone call in 2005 from a friend that Carlson “was not who he appeared to be.” Beardsley has refused to identify the friend, but investigators later determined he was a minister in Vermont.

Beardsley said the minister did not have firsthand knowledge of any wrongdoing, but that 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 received 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 the police that the caller demanded that he confront Carlson with the story Beardsley had just been told or else “the caller could go public with the information concerning Bob and the sexual relationship.

“Beardsley said he asked the caller if there (was) anything that he needed to follow up on but was told that all he needed to do was repeat the conversation with (Carlson),” the report continued.

Beardsley told police that he called Carlson into his office and told him the story.

“Commissioner Beardsley reported that he told (Carlson) that if he ever found any evidence that (Carlson) was engaged in any unlawful or inappropriate activity there would be no place for him at Husson,” the report said.

Beardsley said Thursday that Carlson tendered his resignation within a matter of hours.

“When I accepted (his resignation) I basically told him he shouldn’t be on our campus,” Beardsley said Thursday.

The police report shows that the investigator, Sgt. Troy Gardner, questioned how the anonymous caller would know that Beardsley conveyed the message to Carlson, and therefore knew not to make the sexual relationship public. Beardsley told Gardner that he didn’t know, but that perhaps “the person was in a position to know that (Carlson) had resigned.”

Lt. Christopher Coleman, Gardner’s supervisor, told the Bangor Daily News, “Mr. Beardsley’s information and response to our questions is included in the report and speaks for itself.”

Police have declined to speculate about whether Beardsley was told more by the anonymous caller.

Beardsley was asked Thursday if he regretted how he handled the situation. He said he had nothing to bring to authorities in 2005. After the second call, he said, “I took action immediately. I took it for what it was and he left. I don’t think I could have been more precipitous in terms of acting.”

 

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