LePage appoints departing Commissioner Beardsley to state education board

Bill Beardsley
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Posted Aug. 29, 2012, at 3:09 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 29, 2012, at 6:33 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage has appointed a member of his Cabinet, Conservation Commissioner Bill Beardsley, to an open seat on the State Board of Education.

Beardsley’s job as conservation commissioner phases out Thursday, when a merger of the state departments of Agriculture and Conservation takes effect. His confirmation hearing for the state board position takes place on Sept. 5, the same week lawmakers will consider dozens of gubernatorial appointments for judicial posts, state fire marshal and other state panels.

“The governor appointed Commissioner Beardsley based on his experience and work in education,” said LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett. “He has complete confidence that Bill is a great choice.”

The nine-member State Board of Education acts in an advisory capacity to the education commissioner and makes policy recommendations to the state Legislature. The board also approves school construction projects and sets standards for teacher certification.

Before becoming conservation commissioner, Beardsley served more than a decade as president of Bangor’s Husson University. Beardsley, who lives in Ellsworth and holds a Ph.D. in geography and environmental engineering from Johns Hopkins University, also has worked in banking, higher education and energy positions in Maine, Vermont and Alaska. He was a Republican candidate for governor in 2010.

Under the law passed this spring that merged the agriculture and conservation departments, the agriculture commissioner, Walt Whitcomb, becomes commissioner of the combined Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.

Beardsley came under scrutiny earlier this month when his name appeared in a Maine State Police report investigating Robert Carlson, the Husson chaplain from 1995 until 2006 who jumped to his death last year after learning that police were investigating allegations that he sexually abused an 11-year-old boy in the 1970s.

The police report cited a witness who said that Husson students had approached Beardsley to make him aware of abuse allegations.

According to the police report, Beardsley discussed the allegations with Carlson and Carlson resigned as Husson’s chaplain.

In an early August interview with the Bangor Daily News, however, Beardsley disputed the report. “I had no knowledge of anything illegal or unlawful of anything Bob Carlson ever did,” he said.

State law requires school officials, along with a long list of other professionals, to report suspected child abuse to the Department of Health and Human Services.

There are no explicit penalties spelled out for violating the law.

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