FORT KENT, Maine — The Maine attorney general’s office has decided not to pursue criminal charges against a parish priest after a months-long investigation into “possible embezzlement of parish funds,” according to a statement released Tuesday by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland.

The Rev. James Nadeau has been on voluntary leave from his position as pastor at St. John Vianney Parish since April, pending the conclusion of the investigation.

When an allegation of possible embezzlement of parish funds came to the attention of the diocese from a third party, the diocese was obligated to refer the matter to the Maine attorney general’s office, which decided to investigate [and] the diocese fully cooperated with this investigation, according to the release.

Leanne Robbin, assistant attorney general, sent a letter to the diocese dated Nov. 5, stating her office would not be pursuing charges because of the lack of evidence.

Brenda Kielty, spokesperson for the Maine attorney general’s office, declined to comment further on the case.

On Tuesday a spokesman for the diocese also declined to comment on specifics of the case or identify the source of the original allegations.

“A third party did come to us with those allegation and we did refer them to the attorney general,” Dave Guthro, communications director with the diocese said. “We cooperated with the investigation from there.”

While the attorney general is done with the investigation and not pursuing charges, Guthro did say the matter is not closed as far as the diocese is concerned.

“I am sure that Father Nadeau is relieved to not be facing criminal prosecution,” said Bishop Richard J. Malone, Apostolic administrator of the diocese.

Although the attorney general has declined to initiate a criminal prosecution of Nadeau due to insufficient evidence, an internal financial audit of the parish and additional procedures performed by an external, independent CPA firm revealed a number of issues and a lack of compliance with diocesan policies, according to the release.

Bishop Malone will meet with Nadeau at a later date to address the issues, and his voluntary leave of absence will continue until Malone determines what is best for both Nadeau and the parish, the release said.

That meeting between the two men should answer a lot of questions, Guthro added.

“This whole process started in one of the holiest times of our year,” Norma Landry, former president of the Fort Kent Parish Council, said Tuesday. “My hope and prayer is the diocese will have this resolved soon and allow us to prepare for the holy season of Advent, which is coming right up.”

Landry worked with Nadeau on recovery efforts after the St. Louis Church in Fort Kent was heavily damaged by flood waters in 2008.

“The word ‘embezzlement’ does take me aback,” Landry said. “If the attorney general has found nothing, it makes sense [the investigation] would not continue.”

Landry said Nadeau’s parishioners are praying for their spiritual leader, as they have been since the case began.

“He can be so proud of how many in the parish have been praying for him,” Landry said. “It’s been part of every sermon at every Sunday mass [and] that really says a lot.”

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Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.