The contractor who went out of business after taking thousands of dollars in deposits for natural gas conversions is the subject of a protection from abuse order issued after he was accused of sexually assaulting a female relative under the age of 10 in 2012.

David C. Ireland Jr. had challenged the Presque Isle District Court’s order in 2012, but it was upheld Tuesday by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Protection from abuse orders are civil matters and do not indicate guilt of a crime, only that a court found grounds to order an alleged abuser to stay away from an alleged victim or victims.

The court ruling comes just days after the sudden closure of Dave Ireland Builders LLC, the Howland-based business that performed general contracting, weatherization and more recently, heating, ventilation and air conditioning work.

Multiple attempts to reach Ireland for comment have been unsuccessful. Homeowners and town officials in Cumberland, where many of the people who gave deposits to Ireland for home heating conversions live, say they haven’t been able to reach him, either.

The protection order expires April 30, 2015, said James Dunleavy, the attorney who represents the girl’s mother. Dunleavy declined to say whether the abuse allegations were reported to police.

“Until I speak with (my client), I don’t know I’d want to give you any information on that,” he said.

It was not immediately clear whether law enforcement officials investigated Ireland after the protection order was issued.

Ireland has no criminal record in Maine, according to a statewide search. The district attorneys in Lincoln, Penobscot and Aroostook counties said they have no record of Ireland being charged or prosecuted for sexual abuse in those jurisdictions. He was charged with theft in 2008 in Penobscot County, but that charge was dismissed.

The child’s mother, who filed for the protection order, did not respond to requests for comment.

An employee in the office of Ireland’s attorney in the appeal, Logan Perkins, said Perkins was out of the office and could not be reached for comment.

The protection order was requested in October 2012 after the child told her mother that she had been sexually abused by Ireland, the court documents say. It’s not clear whether the alleged abuse involved a single incident.

For a court to grant a civil action, allegations do not need to meet the same rigorous evidence requirements as in criminal procedures, said Kirk Kafferlin, an assistant district attorney in Aroostook County. Kafferlin has no specific knowledge of or involvement in Ireland’s case.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court’s ruling Tuesday was in response to a challenge by Ireland’s attorney to the admissibility of the child’s statements. The court ruled 5-2 that the child’s statements were admissible, and affirmed the protection from abuse order.

According to the ruling, the child was evaluated by forensic clinicians and mental health professionals after the allegations of abuse arose.

One evaluator recommended that the case be reported to law enforcement and staff at the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, which is standard practice for mental health professionals and other mandatory reporters who are required to report allegations of suspected child abuse or neglect.

It is unclear whether law enforcement or DHHS had received or followed up on the allegations. A spokesman for the DHHS wasn’t able to say Tuesday night whether the agency had been notified, and police in Presque Isle could not immediately verify whether they had received an abuse complaint.

Dave Ireland Builders LLC closed with little notice last week, leaving dozens of customers in Cumberland, Falmouth and Yarmouth scrambling to find the contractor who had been recommended by Summit Natural Gas of Maine. Ireland took deposits for home heating conversion work he never did. Most of the deposits ranged from $1,500 to $3,500.

Local officials believe more than 100 homeowners gave deposits to Ireland.

Two civil lawsuits have been filed in Cumberland County Unified Court this year against Ireland and his business. One was filed by a Cumberland resident and attorney who was expecting Ireland to install a heating system. The other was filed by Portland Winnelson Co., a wholesale supplier of plumbing, heating and air conditioning supplies.

Nate Bassett, Winnelson’s owner, declined to comment on the pending litigation.

Ireland also filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 1998. Documents in that case were not available Tuesday.

Ireland’s business attorney, Bangor-based Tom Brown, said he had not spoken to his client since about January, when Ireland contacted him.

Brown wasn’t surprised to learn that Ireland’s business had closed.

“I knew he had some challenges and he had been working on them, but I hadn’t been following progress or lack thereof,” Brown said. He declined to elaborate on Ireland’s financial situation.

The business’ closure also came as a surprise to his employees, including Jason Lamb, who was in charge of the HVAC division of Dave Ireland Builders. Lamb was hired about eight months ago to head the new division, which focused on converting old heating systems to natural gas, as well as performing energy audits and weatherization work.

Lamb said Ireland gave no specific reason when he informed employees that the business was closing.

“He was pretty vague about everything,” Lamb said, adding that he remembered Ireland saying, ” ‘I talked to my legal team, and they’ve told me I need to shut down the business.’ “

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MattByrnePPH

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