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A Portland Public Schools employee accused of multiple sex crimes — one against a child — had past convictions for operating under the influence that would not have disqualified him from being hired.
Benjamin Conroy, 32, an ed tech for Ocean Avenue Elementary School in Portland, is charged with multiple sex crimes, including the sexual exploitation of a child, a Class A crime, according to the Portland Police Department.
Investigators say Conroy shared photos of a young girl with special needs from the elementary school via a dating app, WGME reported.
According to court documents, Conroy sent the photos to a man, telling him the age of the little girl and that he had “done it to her a few times,” the station reported.
He also allegedly sent photos of other school-aged children in the Back Cove area and exposed himself to a woman on Portland’s Western Promenade.
The Maine Department of Education runs background checks for municipalities who then receive a certificate saying a prospective candidate for an education job is qualified.
Under state law, Conroy would not have failed a state background check despite previous convictions for OUI in 2018, the Portland Press Herald reported. Conroy also has a past conviction of criminal trespassing that same year.
Previous convictions involving physical or sexual abuse or exploitation of a child in the past five years would be reasons for the education department to deny or revoke Conroy’s credentials.
However, the law says that state officials can take into consideration whether lesser, nonviolent criminal convictions warrant the denial or revocation of a credential. A candidate must also “furnish evidence of good moral character when requested,” the newspaper reported.
School districts may opt to run their own background checks in addition to the check provided by the state if they so choose. Portland Public Schools did not run a criminal background check on Conroy before his hiring this summer, the Press Herald reported.
Previous to working in Portland Public Schools, Conroy worked for Casa, a Portland-based organization that works with people who have special needs. Prior to that he worked for RSU 22 in Hampden and Hallowell-based RSU 2, the newspaper reported.
Conroy is on administrative leave and is being held at York County Jail on $50,000 cash bail.
Correction: This story has been updated to clarify that Benjamin Conroy previously worked for Casa.