WISCASSET, Maine — A veteran Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office deputy who was indicted last week on 22 counts related to alleged sexual assaults of three girls over the past 17 years has been placed on indefinite unpaid leave.

Kenneth L. Hatch III, 46, of Whitefield first was arrested in June when he was charged with two counts of sexual abuse allegedly against one girl. He was immediately placed on paid administrative leave at that time.

Lincoln County Sheriff Todd Brackett announced the change in Hatch’s status in a Monday news release.

Brackett said Hatch will remain on unpaid leave until an internal department investigation is completed. That investigation is pending the conclusion of the Maine attorney general’s criminal investigation.

“The fact of the indictment, regardless of the ultimate determination of guilt or innocence, means that Mr. Hatch cannot work as a deputy sheriff,” Brackett said in the release. “As to the substance, the allegations are plainly very serious and I am treating them that way. As soon as the AG’s Office has finished its investigation, which I understand is still ongoing, I will launch my own inquiry by engaging an outside law enforcement agency to investigate the matter independently on behalf of the Sheriff’s Office. Public trust is crucial to our success as public safety provider and I want to make sure this matter is handled as transparently as possible.”

The sheriff added, “It will take some time for this matter to be resolved by the court. However, I want to be very clear that should the internal investigation provide information that substantiates criminal conduct or serious violations of Department policies, or if a conviction is handed down, I will deal with the matter swiftly and appropriately. These allegations, if true, fly in the face of everything myself, my staff and the Sheriff’s Office stand for.”

Hatch was indicted on 11 counts of sexual abuse of a minor, three counts of unlawful sexual contact, and eight counts of aggravated furnishing of marijuana. The drug counts allege that he provided marijuana to two of the alleged victims.

He is scheduled to make his initial appearance in Knox County Unified Court in Rockland on Aug. 23. He has retained attorney Richard Elliott of Boothbay Harbor.

Hatch joined the sheriff’s office in 1999 and was named its Deputy of the Year in April.

The criminal cases were presented to the Knox County grand jury by the state attorney general’s office to avoid any appearance of a conflict because Hatch works extensively with the district attorney’s office.

The incidents for which Hatch was indicted date back as far as September 1999 with one girl who was less than 14 years old at the time of the oldest alleged sexual assault.

The offenses against another girl, who was 14 or 15 years old, occurred in 2001 and 2002, according to the indictments.

And the sexual assaults against the third victim, which resulted in Hatch’s arrest in June, first occurred in 2004 when she was 6, according to Assistant Attorney General John Risler, who presented the case to the grand jury. The indictments then allege that Hatch sexually assaulted the same girl and provided her marijuana in 2013 and 2014, when she was 14 and 15.

In an affidavit filed in June in Wiscasset Unified Criminal Court, Detective Peter Lizanecz of the Maine attorney general’s office wrote that the teen told Augusta police in May that when she was 14, Hatch offered her marijuana in exchange for sex in the back seat of his cruiser.

She also alleged that Hatch gave her cigarettes, alcohol, money and more marijuana during other sexual assaults in the cruiser during the next two to three years.

The teen allegedly told an officer that on Sept. 21, 2013, Hatch gave her marijuana from a plastic bag marked “EVIDENCE” that matched evidence bags that Brackett confirmed were used by the sheriff’s office.

Hatch was released from jail in June on $50,000 unsecured bail. Bail conditions remain in place. He is to have no contact with the alleged victims or with girls younger than 16 years old. He also is prohibited from using or possessing alcohol, drugs or dangerous weapons.