In wake of official’s arrest, Penobscot County seeks to appoint a deputy treasurer
By Judy Harrison, Bangor Daily News Staff
Penobscot County officials are seeking to appoint a deputy treasurer in the wake of stalking and harassment charges filed last week against elected Treasurer John Hiatt.
The county would like to have a person who is authorized to sign financial documents if Hiatt were unable to sign them, commission chairman Peter Baldacci said Tuesday. He declined to say under what circumstances Hiatt might be unable to sign documents.
Hiatt is accused of stalking and harassing a 34 year-old Bangor woman online and by cellphone texts. He was arrested Friday by Bangor police on multiple charges, including a felony charge of aggravated invasion of computer privacy. He was taken to the Penobscot County Jail and later was released on $5,000 bail, about 24 hours after his arrest.
Under state law, the treasurer is required to sign the approval of any bonds issued and the tax anticipation note to borrow funds.
“We take these allegations seriously,” Baldacci said of the charges lodged against Hiatt. “At this point, Mr. Hiatt is contesting them. We need to let the legal process work. If there is a decision to be made, it will be made at the appropriate time.”
Hiatt said Sunday that he is innocent and would continue to serve as county treasurer and as a member of the Bangor School Committee, having been elected separately to the positions in 2018. As treasurer, Hiatt is paid $13,000 per year.
Hiatt was issued a laptop computer owned by the county, Baldacci confirmed on Tuesday. It was seized by Bangor police on May 6 when a search warrant was executed at Hiatt’s home. Investigators on Tuesday declined to say if evidence of a possible crime was found on it.
Kathy Harris-Smedberg, Bangor’s interim school superintendent, said in a notice posted on the Bangor High School Facebook page that the school department would launch its own investigation into Hiatt’s use of a district-owned computer tablet.
“School committee members are issued tablets by the school department for use in carrying out their school committee responsibilities,” she said. “We expect school committee members to observe the same requirements for use of electronic devices that are required of staff, including prohibiting any use that is illegal or in violation of other school committee policies.”
County-owned laptops, which commissioners also have, are to be used only for county business, Baldacci said Tuesday. He said commissioners have asked Hiatt to provide a list of people who could serve as his deputy but would prefer the deputy treasurer be an employee of the county finance department. Currently, two employees work full time and one works part time in that department.
Under Maine law, county treasurers may appoint a deputy but the appointment must be approved by commissioners.
Penobscot County has not had a deputy treasurer in recent years, and it was unclear Tuesday whether the county has ever had one. Aroostook, Franklin, Knox, Waldo and York counties all have deputy treasurers, according to the Maine Association of County Commissioners. In Aroostook County, the finance director is the deputy treasurer, according to the county’s website.
Hiatt is charged with one count each of aggravated invasion of computer privacy, a Class C crime, stalking, a Class D crime, theft by unauthorized taking, a Class E crime, and two counts of harassment, a Class D crime.
He also is accused of taking over the woman’s Facebook account, reporting that her EBT card had been stolen — which prevented her from using her Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits — and telling her daughter that the Department of Health and Human Services was coming to remove her and her siblings from their home.
If convicted of the felony invasion of privacy law, 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.