Husson’s Beardsley had warnings of abuse by Carlson, report says

Posted Aug. 01, 2012, at 2:03 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 01, 2012, at 7:21 p.m.

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Bill Beardsley
Robert F. Bukaty | AP
Bill Beardsley

AUGUSTA, Maine — Former Husson University President Bill Beardsley learned in 2005 that the Rev. Bob Carlson “was not who he appeared to be,” according to a report released Wednesday about allegations that Carlson sexually abused minors.

In addition, students at the school had told Beardsley about abuse of students there, the Maine State Police report said.

Carlson, who was the chaplain at Husson from 1995 until 2006, jumped to his death in the early morning hours of Nov. 13 from the Penobscot Narrows Bridge. A few days after his death, the state police announced they had been investigating an allegation that Carlson had sexually abused an 11-year-old boy in the 1970s.

In the state police report — in which much of the information is redacted — Sgt. Troy A. Gardner wrote in November about allegations of abuse reported by Husson students. “[Redacted] advised that a previous official at Husson College [k]new about the abuse allegations,” he wrote. “Allegations by two new students: one student went to the President Bill Beardsley.

“Bill was approached by a third party re: abuse to a second student,” the report continued. “Abuse to both victims occurred before the age of 18. President Beardsley brought the allegations to Bob’s attention and Bob resigned [as chaplain].”

Beardsley, who is now commissioner of the Maine Department of Conservation, said Wednesday that Gardner never told him about those statements.

“That never happened,” Beardsley said of the statement in Gardner’s report.

“I had no knowledge of anything illegal or unlawful of anything Bob Carlson ever did,” he said.

Efforts to reach Gardner were unsuccessful Wednesday.

“Mr. Beardsley’s information and response to our questions is included in the report and speaks for itself,” Gardner’s supervisor, Lt. Christopher Coleman, said in an email Wednesday. “We have redacted information to protect the identities and privacy of witnesses and victims.”

Julie Green, director for public affairs and government relations at Husson, said Wednesday that two state police detectives interviewed Vice President John Rubino for approximately 30 minutes about Carlson’s tenure there in late November, about two weeks after his suicide. To her knowledge that was the only time a Husson official was interviewed by investigators.

In a July 11 interview with Beardsley in the commissioner’s office in Augusta, Gardner did not appear to ask about the allegations, according to his report.

Beardsley told Gardner that Carlson resigned a day after the university president informed the chaplain that Beardsley had received a phone call in 2007 or 2008 in which a caller said Carlson “had participated in a sexual relationship with someone years ago,” Gardner wrote in his three-page report, which is attached to a longer state police report released Wednesday.

“The caller dictated that Commissioner Beardsley, then President Beardsley, was to call Bob into the office and repeat the conversation with Bob,” Gardner wrote in the report. “The caller informed then-President Beardsley that if he did not bring Bob into the office to repeat this conversation 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 Bob.

“Commissioner Beardsley reported that he immediately contacted Bob and that Bob was in the office within the next hour o[r] two,” the report continued. “Commissioner Beardsley reported that he repeated the conversation to Bob and that Bob reported that he had never done anything unlawful. Commissioner Beardsley reported that he told Bob that if he ever found any evidence that Bob was engaged in any unlawful or inappropriate activity there would be no place for him at Husson.”

Beardsley, who originally refused to meet with investigators, according to the report, said Wednesday in a telephone interview that he never had any information that Carlson was sexually abusing or ever had sexually abused minors.

“My reaction when he resigned was that he must have had his reasons after I had that conversation with him,” Beardsley said Wednesday.

In 2005, Beardsley received a phone call from a friend of his who was a minister in Vermont, according to the report. Beardsley said Wednesday that his friend, who is not named in the report and whose name Beardsley refused to give to investigators, did not offer specific or first-hand information.

“I don’t know why, but I had the impression after that conversation that Bob had had a sexual relationship years ago with a seminary student in Massachusetts,” Beardsley said Wednesday.

Beardsley said that he never called police because “I had nothing to go to the authorities with.”

Carlson’s relationship with Husson began in 1995 when he volunteered to serve as chaplain for what was then Husson College, Beardsley told Gardner. The minister became the full-time chaplain on Sept. 1, 2002, and submitted his resignation letter on Dec. 15, 2006, according to Green. Carlson’s resignation was effective Dec. 31, 2006, she said Wednesday.

“We are reading these allegations for the first time the same as everyone else,” Green said in a statement issued Wednesday. “As I understand it from what I’ve read, Commissioner Beardsley was contacted about some behaviors that occurred years ago, he talked with Carlson and then Carlson resigned.

“We cannot speculate about what went on during a phone conversation between Commissioner Beardsley and an unnamed person,” she said. “Beardsley made it clear he did not share that conversation with anyone else on the Husson campus.

“There have never been any allegations — let me repeat, there have never been any allegations — that any abuse occurred here at Husson during Carlson’s time at the university,” Green said.

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