Victims Appeal to Maine's Congressional Delegation

Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests
December 27, 2010

A support group for clergy sex abuse victims is writing to Maine's congressional delegation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development seeking an investigation into why a twice-convicted child molesting cleric still lives in Bar Harbor public housing.

Earlier this month, the Bangor Daily News disclosed that Fr. Walter Dayton Salisbury was on the Bar Harbor Housing Authority Board and lived in public housing there, despite having been found guilty of having sexually abused children in Texas and the District of Columbia.

When questioned by a reporter, Salisbury resigned from the board but he still lives in public housing.

On Dec. 21, leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, wrote to the Bar Harbor Housing Authority Board and the Bar Harbor Town Council, which appointed Salisbury to the panel. SNAP asked that the two groups publicly apologize for their "recklessness" and that Salisbury be kicked out of his apartment.

So far, there's been no formal response to SNAP's requests. But the Housing Authority Director Terrance J. Kelly says that his agency only prohibits Maine sex offenders from living in its buildings. Since Salisbury was convicted elsewhere, Kelly is unwilling to take action.

"I have to have something to go by, and for us it is the (Maine sex offender) registry," Kelley said. "Otherwise, it would be up to me to interpret. I'm not the judicial system."

"That's just crazy," said David Clohessy of SNAP. "Maine officials are basically putting out a 'welcome mat' for serial child molesters and other criminals from 49 states to come and live in federally-funded apartments in Bar Harbor."

A Housing Authority board member has questioned whether the panel should consider any action.

"Do we have an obligation to follow up on this?" wrote Ken Smith (207 288 4034 H / 207 288 3759, to his Housing Authority colleagues on 12/22. Smith inadvertently copied SNAP on the email.

"I would suggest that we speak with a 'good' attorney and get some input and guidance," Smith wrote, "These people are not going away."

In its letter to the delegation, SNAP leaders ask that Maine's four elected federal officials "use your influence to lean on Bar Harbor officials to take these common sense safety steps and urge HUD to launch a formal investigation (regardless of where Salisbury ends up) into how such recklessness happened, is happening, and can be prevented from happening in the future."

"If need be, we're asking you to ask HUD to cut funding for the Bar Harbor Housing Authority," SNAP writes, "until action is taken to better protect children in its care."

SNAP is contacting Maine's two senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe and two congressmen Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud. Copies of SNAP's letters, sent today by fax and e mail, are below:

December 27, 2010

Dear Senator Snowe:

The initial disclosures were disturbing. The subsequent disclosures are even more disturbing.

We're referring to the revelations earlier this month that a twice convicted predator priest, Fr. Walter Dayton Salisbury

-- now lives in Bar Harbor public housing and

-- until recently, served on the Bar Harbor Housing Authority board.

That became public knowledge early in December. Since then, however, other troubling disclosures have surfaced.

1) The local sheriff knew of Salisbury's crimes since 2003 but apparently notified no one.

2) The Town Council, which appointed the priest to the housing authority panel,

-- did so without checking his background

-- apparently has no policy or practice of performing such background checks on any of its appointees

-- received several complaints about Salisbury before he resigned

-- has met twice since knowledge of Salisbury's crimes surfaced publicly but hasn't even discussed the matter &

-- sent the priest a letter thanking him for his "service."

3) The Housing Authority

-- had heard allegations about Salisbury's past "quite a few years ago"

-- allowed him to voluntarily resign (instead of ousting him) from its board

-- lets him continue to live in government-funded housing near children ("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," according to the Bangor Daily News)

-- claims (through public statements by its director) that it is "unprepared to decide on a case-by-case basis who shouldn't be allowed to live in the authority's housing"

-- seems to acknowledges (through public statements by its director) that it consults the Maine sex offender registry but essentially ignores the convictions of sex offenders in other states.

This is perhaps the most troubling revelation of all. If it's true that Bar Harbor Housing Authority will house convicted criminals, as long as they aren't on the Maine sex offender registry, this is essentially putting out a 'welcome mat' for many dangerous ex-cons. It's an extraordinarily irresponsible

Why is this your concern? Because the Bar Harbor Housing Authority is funded, at least in part, by federal dollars. And because the safety of your constituents should always be a primary concern, especially those constituents who are children who stand little chance of protecting themselves from a well-educated, well-spoken and well-connected child molester.

As you know, public housing, by definition, serves primarily low income individuals and families. These are among the most vulnerable to sexual predators. Low income mothers and fathers can't readily quit their jobs so they can more vigorously monitor their kids. They can't easily hire full time nannies. They can't escape a predator by choosing to spend more time at their summer homes. They can't easily pick up and find another affordable apartment elsewhere.

Every child deserves to be safe, of course. But low income children in government-funded and government-managed housing should especially be safe.

The taxpayer side of all this should not be minimized either. Taxpayers shouldn't be forced to essentially support a twice convicted child molester. Taxpayers should be able to assume that government panels don't include twice-convicted child molesters on them. Taxpayers should be reassured that background checks are performed on those who want the prestige, status and power that sometimes comes with appointments to governmental panels.

Most of these facts about Salisbury surfaced almost a month ago. On December 2, thanks to a concerned Maine citizen and conscientious reporting by a Maine newspaper, the public finally learned about Salisbury's living in public housing and serving on the public housing board. In the weeks that have since passed, we have assumed something would be done. But apparently, little or nothing has.

No action has apparently been taken by Bar Harbor officials to protect vulnerable children.

No action has been taken to make sure other dangerous criminals aren't living in Bar Harbor public housing.

No action has been taken to change procedures so that other dangerous criminals aren't accepted into Bar Harbor public housing.

No action has been taken to prevent the irresponsible appointments of criminals to Bar Harbor panels in the future.

No action along these lines is even been promised. (One Town Council member has publicly "may want to discuss whether the town should try to find out more about the backgrounds of prospective volunteer committee and board members before making such appointments," according to the Bangor Daily News. Sadly, however, she used the same opportunity to praise the "good job" Salisbury allegedly did as a housing authority board member and to defend the "thank you" letter the Council sent to him recently.)

And a proven predator continues to live at taxpayers' expense among some of the most vulnerable Bar Harbor citizens.

Sadly, Catholics and clergy sex abuse victims are accustomed to seeing church officials act recklessly, callously and deceptively with child molesters. After all, the church is an ancient, rigid, secretive, all-male monarchy that is notoriously unresponsive to its constituency.

We are less accustomed to public servants acting recklessly, callously and deceitfully about child molesters. That's why this situation is so disturbing.

Finally, we understand that everyone has rights and that government can't act arbitrarily. At the same time, however, we believe that government's first obligation is the safety of citizens. And we have seen, time and time again, that "where there's a will, there's a way." We are confident that, if prodded to do so, Bar Harbor officials can find a legal way to oust Salisbury, protect kids, reform procedures, determine whether other convicted criminals are on panels or in public housing, and take effective steps to reach out to others who may have seen, suspected or suffered his crimes, so that he might be prosecuted, convicted, jailed and kept away from innocent children.

So we're asking you to use your influence to lean on Bar Harbor officials to take these common sense safety steps and urge HUD to launch a formal investigation (regardless of where Salisbury ends up) into how such recklessness happened, is happening, and can be prevented from happening in the future.

If need be, we're asking you to ask HUD to cut funding for the Bar Harbor Housing Authority until action is taken to better protect children in its care.

We look forward to hearing from you.

David Clohessy, Executive Director, SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

7234 Arsenal Street, St. Louis MO 63143, (314 566 9790),

Barbara Dorris, Outreach Coordinator, SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

6245 Westminster, St. Louis MO 63130, (314 503 0003),

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