State officials have refused to renew an education credential for a former Westbrook lawmaker, following allegations of sexual misconduct with female students.
Last Friday, the Maine Department of Education declined to reissue Dillon Bates a clearance required of school employees, citing a state rule allowing education officials to revoke certifications in cases of “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.”
But a lawyer for Bates, who hasn’t been charged with a crime, said Wednesday that an investigation by another state agency cleared him of “any wrongdoing.”
Bates, a Democrat who had represented House District 35, resigned his seat in August after initially refusing bipartisan calls for him to leave office in response to reported allegations that he had relationships with high school girls while teaching and coaching in Maine schools during the past decade.
Bates had appealed the education department’s refusal to renew his criminal history record check clearance, according to lawyer Walter McKee, but withdrew the objection because he will not be able to work in schools “in the near future given the media coverage of the false allegations made against him.”
“His decision was purely practical,” McKee said. “He has never wavered from his absolute denial that he ever engaged in any misconduct at all and, consistent with Dillon’s position, a [Department of Health and Human Services] investigation cleared Dillon of any wrongdoing.”
The health department investigated “a faculty member” at the Maine Girls Academy — where Bates worked — and concluded in June that “there was not sufficient evidence to meet the statutory threshold of a finding of child abuse or neglect,” spokeswoman Caroline Ferguson said.
Steve Bailey, executive director of the Maine School Management Association, said the education department can deny certifications based on a wide variety of information that comes to the state, including through the criminal justice system or complaints.
The allegations against Bates were published in The Bollard, a Portland monthly newspaper, which did not name any of the girls and quoted one alleged victim.
Bates was a teacher at the now-shuttered Maine Girls Academy in Portland through April, and he had coached sports at several schools — most recently serving as a track and field coach at Massabesic High School in Waterboro. He informed the school that he wouldn’t return to that job, and he said earlier this year that he wouldn’t run for re-election.
Asked about the allegations against Bates, the Portland and Westbrook police departments said they could not confirm whether investigations exist if they have not led to criminal charges. “In this case, we have no arrests involving Mr. Bates,” said acting Portland Police Chief Vernon Malloch.
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