Former Husson University president William Beardsley acknowledged Monday that he did not categorically ban the Rev. Robert Carlson from campus after the chaplain abruptly resigned in 2006.

Carlson, who committed suicide in November, a day after he learned that Maine State Police were investigating claims that he had abused a minor sexually, continued to attend Husson activities for at least four years after Beardsley said he advised the minister that he shouldn’t be on campus.

The revelations surfaced Monday, five days after police released a 104-page report detailing allegations that Carlson had abused several children over 40 years. Beardsley, who is now Maine’s conservation commissioner, is among several people named in the report who had received warnings about Carlson’s behavior.

As late as 2010, Carlson led student orientation exercises or appeared at events alongside Husson officials. His participation in Husson events is widely documented in photographs, school newsletters and news accounts.

Beardsley, whose 22 years as president at Husson overlapped with Carlson’s nine-year tenure as chaplain, acknowledged that the school’s former chaplain continued to attend public events after his resignation.

The Portland Press Herald learned of Carlson’s continued on-campus activities from a former Husson student, who provided the newspaper with links to online photo albums that portray Carlson in various school settings.

Beardsley’s suggestion last week that Carlson should limit his visits to Husson — and his explanation of the conversation that prompted Carlson’s immediate resignation — still leaves many unanswered questions.

Carlson committed suicide in November by jumping off the Penobscot Narrows Bridge just days after police began investigating allegations that he had abused minors sexually.

Beardsley said his 2006 conversation with Carlson followed a directive from an anonymous caller who told him that “(Carlson) had participated in a sexual relationship with someone years ago.”

Beardsley has told police that the caller’s story prompted him to question whether Carlson had done anything unlawful.

“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 police report says.

When asked about the conversation last week, Beardsley told The Portland Press Herald that Carlson resigned “in a matter of hours.”

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

Beardsley’s response suggests that the caller’s information was serious enough that Carlson’s presence on campus was not in the best interests of the college.

However, school officials say they received no directive from the university president to ban Carlson, who continued to show up at university Christmas parties and other public events.

In August 2009, the former chaplain led a student orientation exercise, evidence of which appears in photos taken by the former administrative assistant to Rodney Larson, dean of the School of Pharmacy.

Carlson later attended a ribbon-cutting for the pharmacy school’s conference room and posed in photos alongside Larson and other school officials.

In 2010 Carlson was a presenter at the pharmacy school’s “white coat” ceremony, where he appeared alongside Husson’s current president, Robert Clark.

Larson said Monday that he was unaware of any restrictions that would have prevented Carlson from attending school functions.

“He was certainly back on the campus after his resignation,” said Julie Green, Husson’s communications director. “Of course, we did not know then what we know now.”

The extent to which Beardsley was aware of Carlson’s dark side is still in question. The former Husson president insists that he knew of no illegal activity. He also refutes a claim by a person interviewed by police that he’d been told of abuse of Husson students.

The person claimed that Beardsley was told about abuse allegations involving a Husson student who was younger than 18. Beardsley denies the individual’s account.

Beardsley was asked Monday about his comment that Carlson should not return to campus after his resignation. He said that he didn’t remember what he exactly said.

“Bob Carlson was never categorically banned from the campus or told he couldn’t be there,” he said. “I think in the context of this situation, I said, ‘Gee, if he was going to step down, his relationship with the college was obviously going to be limited.'”

He added, “I said, basically, the ball is in your court. If you decide to leave, you know, basically, that’s the end of our relationship. I don’t remember what the exact words were.”

Beardsley could not explain why he thought Carlson’s visits to Husson should be limited — or why he should immediately resign — if the minister had had a legal sexual encounter several years ago.

“Remember, he was married,” Beardsley explained. “He has a son in town. He has a grandson in town.”

Lt. Christopher Coleman, the supervising officer in the Major Crimes Unit, which conducted the investigation, said Monday that the agency had little to add to its report.

“The report speaks for itself,” Coleman said. “(Beardsley’s) responses to our questions are there, and I’m going to leave it at that.”

Beardsley was asked why he didn’t initially want to be interviewed by police when he was approached in November, shortly 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.

Asked why he relented, Bill Beardsley said Monday, “I just decided it would be a good thing to do.”

The conservation commissioner will transition out of his current job when his agency merges Sept. 1 with the Department of Agriculture. While Beardsley has come under fire for his involvement in the Carlson case, he has the backing of Gov. Paul LePage.

Adrienne Bennett, LePage’s spokeswoman, said last week the governor has “the utmost confidence” in Beardsley.

 

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