May 25, 2018
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Records contradict Richardson’s version of dealing with Carlson

Renee Ordway
By Renee Ordway, Special to the BDN

So let’s get right to it.

Ever since Robert Carlson, a well-known and respected community leader, jumped from the Penobscot Narrows Bridge in November amid an allegation that he sexually abused a boy decades earlier, former Penobscot County Sheriff Tim Richardson has gone on the record with various news media proclaiming that he had seen Carlson misbehaving with young boys during the 1970s.

Carslon was a commissioned deputy at the time and worked as director of administrative services and jail administrator under then Sheriff Otis N. Labree.

Richardson has proclaimed quite vehemently, and perhaps a bit proudly, that when he became sheriff in January 1981 he got rid of Carlson.

I mean, who wouldn’t have, really?

Richardson claims that in the 1970s he saw Carlson bring young boys into the Penobscot County Jail in the wee hours of the morning and rub them all over, including their buttocks.

Richardson didn’t feel he could do much as a young deputy, though he said he did take his concerns to Labree and then Penobscot County District Attorney David Cox.

But they did nothing, he said.

In his most recent videotaped interview with the BDN, Richardson said, “When I became sheriff in 1979 [actually he was elected in November 1980 and took office in January 1981], I sat Mr. Carlson down and said that being the sheriff it was my prerogative who I have in the jail provide outside services and at that time I didn’t feel comfortable with him and his activities with young boys and I thought it would be better if he moved on.”

On “The Pulse Morning Show” on Thursday, Richardson said he got rid of Carlson just a couple of weeks after he took office in January 1981.

That would seem to have been the right thing to do. I mean, finally he was sheriff, no longer a young powerless deputy, and he had control over his department. No decent sheriff would allow a person he had seen rubbing young boys on the buttocks — in the jail control room, no less — have access to his jail or any part of his department, for that matter. Right?

I’d like to make just a minor correction to Richardson’s account.

Carlson did resign — two years after Richardson took command of the department.

According to employment records obtained from the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Department, Carlson resigned in December 1982. No reason for the resignation was noted in the record.

Actually, in January 1981, Richardson named Carlson as the department’s training officer, in charge of overseeing the training of all personnel. In that position, Carlson also was in charge of writing and coordinating all jail policies and procedures.

The employment form noted the change was a “transfer” and not a demotion, but it did involve a reduction of $12 a week in pay.

However, just six months later, on June 1, 1981, Carlson was promoted by Richardson back to captain of corrections, otherwise known as the jail administrator, otherwise top dog in the jail division.

Richardson gave him a $24-a-week raise, according to Carlson’s personnel records.

Carlson stayed in that position for a year and a half until he resigned in mid-December 1982.

The resignation took effect Jan. 2, 1983, according to employment records.

Interestingly, in October 1983, 10 months after Carlson’s resignation and amid all of Richardson’s concerns that Carlson was a pedophile, Richardson commissioned him again as a deputy sheriff, with all of the powers that involved.

That document is on file as well.

On the radio show Thursday morning, Richardson said since the event occurred 30 years ago his timing might be “a little bit off.” But he said that Sheriff Glenn Ross “practices deception” when he claims Carlson worked in Richardson’s administration for years.

A couple of weeks versus two years.

Perhaps off just a bit, Mr. Richardson.

Bob Kelly of Bangor was a Penobscot County commissioner at the time and signed Carlson’s resignation form.

I asked him Friday morning whether Richardson had ever indicated to the commissioners that he was concerned about Carlson’s behavior with boys or any liability or safety concerns he had in regard to Carlson.

“No, he never did,” Kelly said. “If he had of, we certainly would have taken action. … As I recall, at the time Bob was leaving on his own accord to pursue other employment avenues.”

This column is not about whether Carlson sexually abused boys. That investigation is still under way and the allegation itself, coupled with his suicide, is something those who knew and cared for him have to struggle with individually.

I am one of them.

It’s been a troubling and painful time for many people in this community, especially those who are victims of sexual abuse.

Richardson has been willing to talk with TV and newspaper reporters and appear on radio talk shows to spread the message that he knew the whole time about Carlson and that he did something about it right away when he finally had the power.

Penobscot County employment records tell a different story.

With those records in hand, I called Richardson on Friday morning.

I asked him if he could help me reconcile the difference between his timing and the records on file.

“I don’t know how I got sucked into this mess,” he said.

Then he decided he didn’t wish to comment and hung up.

Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

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