If you are concerned about a child being neglected or abused, call Maine’s 24-hour hotline at 800-452-1999 or 711 to speak with a child protective specialist. Calls may be made anonymously. For more information, visit maine.gov/dhhs/ocfs/cw/reporting_abuse.
Penobscot County commissioners on Tuesday unanimously called on Treasurer John Hiatt to resign immediately after his arrest last week on a possession of child pornography charge.
Hiatt resigned Monday from the school board and his resignation was accepted, according to School Committee Chair Carin Sychterz.
He was elected to both positions in 2018.
Commissioner Chair Peter Baldacci of Bangor called on Hiatt to quit after commissioners met with lawyers on a legal matter concerning “rights and responsibilities.” Democrat Laura Sanborn of Alton and Republican Andre Cushing of Newport agreed that the treasurer should resign.
Hiatt refused to resign. He said that his pass to enter the building had been revoked.
“Last week’s disturbing allegations against Mr. Hiatt for possession of child pornography, along with the allegations against him in May for stalking and harassment, make it impossible for him to fulfill his duties as County Treasurer,” Baldacci said in statement issued after the meeting on behalf of all three commissioners. “Furthermore, nothing is more important than protecting the safety and well-being of County employees and visitors to our facilities.”
Hiatt said that people in this country have the presumption of innocence.
“I understand the political pressure commissioners are under but I ask that you allow the legal process to play out,” he said.
Hiatt attended the meeting but did not sit in on the executive session.
Baldacci said that for the “protection of the community” procedures would be put in place for Hiatt to attempt to fulfill his duties as treasurer. Baldacci said after the meeting that those procedures could include limiting the times and place Hiatt may be in the Historic Penobscot County Courthouse on Hammond Street. Hiatt has a desk on the second floor of the building in the room where commissioners meet.
County Administrator Erika Honey said after the meeting that Hiatt would be allowed to “access [his] work area two days a week” including on Tuesdays, which is when commissioners hold their weekly meetings. He is required to notify Honey when he is in the building and to remain at his desk in the commissioners’ meeting room.
Hiatt remains free on $1,000 cash bail with conditions that he have no contact with minors, not to be at schools, playgrounds or anywhere where minors congregate and not to possess any device that can connect to the internet.
The affidavit filed on the child pornography possession charge said that sexually explicit images of children who may have been as young as five were found in June on Hiatt’s cellphone seized in the stalking and harassment investigation.
He already was facing charges related to his alleged stalking and harassing of a 34-year-old Bangor woman on social media and in text messages sent to her cellphone earlier this year. Hiatt previously was arrested on May 14 by Bangor police on multiple charges, including a felony invasion of privacy charge.
Hiatt told commissioners Tuesday that he has not yet been indicted by the Penobscot County grand jury. When and if he is indicted, Hiatt said that he would plead not guilty.
If Hiatt were to decide on a jury trial, it most likely could not be held before late 2022 or 2023 because of the backlog of cases due to the coronavirus pandemic.
After being arrested on those charges, Hiatt vowed to fight them and initially said he would seek reelection to the school board this year, when his term expires. He said in May that he would seek reelection next year as county treasurer.
Earlier this summer, county commissioners appointed Judith Alexander as deputy treasurer in case Hiatt was unable to fulfill his duties.
Hiatt has been open about his autism and the challenges he faces as an elected official because of it. He has described himself as an advocate for those with the condition.
He is next due in court on Oct. 19. Hiatt has not been asked to enter pleas on any of the charges because he has not yet been indicted by the grand jury.
If convicted of either possession of child pornography or felony invasion of privacy, Hiatt faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. Class D crimes carry a maximum one-year term of incarceration and a fine of up to $2,000, and the maximum sentence and fine for a Class E crime are six months in jail and $1,000.