Bangor High School Principal Paul Butler was charged Saturday night with drunken driving and leaving the scene of an accident, according to Bangor police.
Butler is accused of driving his truck into a concrete barrier at Bass Park, causing his driver’s side airbag to deploy, and then of driving down Main Street before being stopped by police a couple of blocks away.
Butler is on administrative leave because of what happened on Saturday, Bangor School Department Superintendent James Tager said Monday.
The Bangor School Department also is investigating the allegations against Butler and plans to appoint someone temporarily to take on Butler’s role at the high school while the investigation is underway, Tager said. That person has not yet been chosen.
Tager declined further comment.
Butler, 50, has been principal at Bangor High School for the past 10 years. If he remains on leave on or after Sept. 1, when classes for the 2021-22 school year are scheduled to start, it could complicate challenges for other school administrators as they seek to implement a district-wide mask mandate on nearly 1,200 students and numerous staff members at the high school. School officials announced that policy on Monday, the same day the charges against Butler were publicly released.
On Saturday, a Bangor police officer on duty at the Bangor State Fair saw Butler’s pickup truck strike a cement barrier around 10:20 p.m. and then drive off, Sgt. Wade Betters, spokesperson for the Bangor police said Monday.
An officer stopped Butler on Main Street near Lincoln Street and saw front end damage to the truck and saw that the driver’s air bag had deployed, Betters said. The officer also allegedly smelled alcohol and noticed signs that Butler seemed to have been drinking.
After failing a field sobriety test, Butler agreed to go to the police station where he was given a breath test to determine the level of alcohol in his system, according to Betters. Betters did not release the results of Butler’s breath test.
Butler was charged with operating under the influence of intoxicants, a Class D crime, and leaving the scene of an accident with property damage, a Class E crime. He was issued a summons and then was allowed to leave. He was not placed under arrest and taken to jail.
The legal blood alcohol content limit for drunken driving in Maine is .08 percent but a person may be charged with any level above zero percent if the charge is supported by other evidence of impairment.
Butler’s attorney, Terence Harrigan of Bangor, said Monday that his client’s blood alcohol level was .07 percent, below the legal limit to drive. He also said that Butler was driving to an empty parking lot to report the crash when he was pulled over by police.
“He was cooperative with the police and also reported the police contact to his superintendent immediately,” Harrigan said. “He has been cooperative and acting responsibly with respect to this matter. We will investigate and let the process work so that what actually happened can see the light of day.”
Butler’s arraignment date is Oct. 13.
If convicted, he faces up to a year in prison and fine of up to $2,000 on the OUI charge. The mandatory minimum fine for a first offense OUI is $500. If convicted of the leaving the scene charge, he faces up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Bangor School Committee Chair Carin Sychterz on Monday declined to comment about the allegations against Butler.
Butler, who graduated from Bangor High School in 1989 before attending Colby College, has served as principal of the high school since 2011. Prior to that, at various times he led the district’s gifted and talented and Title I programs, served as a principal at Bangor’s Fairmount School, and taught English at the city’s James F. Doughty School.
Butler has led the high school through the COVID-19 pandemic, including through remote learning and two graduation ceremonies under difficult circumstances. The 2020 graduation was a drive-through graduation ceremony, while the 2021 saw few changes from pre-pandemic ceremonies.
Butler is the second Bangor High School official to be charged with OUI in the past three years. In 2018, boys varsity basketball coach Carl Parker resigned after an OUI arrest. Butler told the Bangor Daily News at the time that Parker resigned after officials determined it was best he no longer be a coach at the school.
CORRECTION: an earlier version of this story listed the wrong class of crime for leaving the scene of an accident.