Ex-Priest Resigns after Past Comes to Light

By Robert Levin
The Fenceviewer
December 8, 2010

BAR HARBOR A former Catholic Priest resigned abruptly from the board of the Bar Harbor Housing Authority (BHA) on Dec. 1, after his convictions on charges of child sex abuse came to light.

W. Dayton Salisbury, 79, had been a resident commissioner on the BHA board for at least 10 years. He lives at the BHA's Malvern-Belmont apartments at 80 Mount Desert St.

Mr. Salisbury, a native of Bar Harbor, was twice convicted of sexual molestation charges while working out of state as a Roman Catholic priest.

In 1979, Mr. Salisbury pleaded no contest to indecency with a child in Houston, Texas. He received three years of probation. In 1993, in Washington, D.C., Mr. Salisbury pleaded guilty to a charge of assault, and was convicted of committing an indecent act on a minor, for which he was sentenced to one year in prison, suspended, and one year of probation.

Several additional allegations of abuse were made, but did not result in any charges.

Mr. Salisbury "was removed from the ministry after the 1993 incident" by his employer, the St. Joseph's Society of the Sacred Heart, according to a statement released by the organization in 2004. He agreed to seek treatment and subsequently was placed on retired status, the statement says. He also was prohibited from representing himself as a priest.

Mr. Salisbury is not registered as a sex offender in Maine or elsewhere. After questions concerning his status were raised by an Ellsworth resident in 2003, Hancock County Sheriff William Clark said that Mr. Salisbury was not required to register.

"My office has determined that considering the above offenses, Mr. Salisbury is not required under Maine law to register as a sex offender," Sheriff Clark wrote in a letter to Bob McAteer in 2003. Mr. McAteer is a member of Voice of the Faithful, a child sex abuse victim advocacy group.

Chief Sheriff's Deputy Richard Bishop on Tuesday confirmed his department's 2003 opinion. They have no cause to look into Mr. Salisbury's situation at this time, he said.

"The sex offender registry would have to make that determination, whether he would have to register," he said.

The Malvern-Belmont apartments where Mr. Salisbury lives are considered housing for low-income adults. No minors live on the premises.

Kids Corner, a child care center, is located across the street. The Conners-Emerson school, serving children in kindergarten through eighth grade, is located several hundred feet down the road.

BHA director Terry Kelley said Monday that policies prevent convicted felons and registered sex offenders from living in BHA housing. Mr. Salisbury, he said, does not appear to meet either qualification.

"I have to look at this according to policy, and, as policy goes, he's a resident, and I could probably never evict him for it," Mr. Kelley said.

Questions were raised concerning Mr. Salisbury's past about 10 years ago, Mr. Kelley said, which were then taken to the Bar Harbor police department. An investigation showed that Mr. Salisbury had not been convicted of any felonies, while it also "was determined that he was not required to register," Mr. Kelley said.

Mr. Salisbury initially was elected to the BHA board as a resident commissioner by his fellow residents, Mr. Kelley said. The BHA is required by state law to keep two such positions on the board.

Nothing in Mr. Salisbury's tenure as commissioner pointed to any problems, nor did his position involve working with children or minors, Mr. Kelley said.

"He's been a model commissioner," he said. "He's been very involved. He's worked hard."

Mr. Kelley was contacted last week by the Bangor Daily News with questions concerning Mr. Salisbury, he said. After he told Mr. Salisbury that an article was going to be published, Mr. Salisbury immediately tendered his resignation from the board, Mr. Kelley said.

Mr. Salisbury was ordained as a priest by the St. Joseph Society on June 6, 1959. Between then and 1993, he served in Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and Washington, D.C., according to the society's 2004 statement. Society officials said in the statement that they regretted allowing Mr. Salisbury's behavior to continue as long as it did.

"The decisions to permit Dayton Salisbury to continue priestly ministry despite several allegations of child abuse and a criminal prosecution for indecency with a child would not be repeated today," the statement read. "The Josephites apologize to those who have been harmed by Salisbury."

Mr. Salisbury did not return the Islander's calls for comment.

Mr. Salisbury is an active member of the Maine Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, and was the group's president in 2009.

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