Officer Richard Strout of the Southwest Harbor Police Department.

Days after his hire was announced, a former Machias police officer who had been accused of assaulting and groping women is no longer working for the Southwest Harbor police department.

A decade ago, Richard Strout was sued by three women who claimed he assaulted and groped them while placing them under arrest. He also sued the town of Machias in 2012, alleging he had been terminated in retaliation for being a whistleblower. He later received a $50,000 settlement with the town of Machias.

The Southwest Harbor Police Department said Friday morning on its Facebook page that Strout no longer works for the town.The department had announced the hiring on Facebook just days earlier, prompting a torrent of criticism online and in direct feedback to town officials.

“Mr. Strout is no longer employed by the Southwest Harbor Police Dept.” Chief John Hall wrote Friday morning on the department’s Facebook page. “I am writing to publicly apologize to the residents of Southwest Harbor and the greater community for damaging your trust in this department. This was never my intention.”

It was not clear Friday morning if Strout resigned over the furor of his hiring, which was reported Wednesday by the Bangor Daily News, or if Hall decided Strout had to go.

Hall did not immediately respond to a voicemail message Friday.

Hall said Wednesday that the former Machias officer was upfront when he applied about his work history in Machias and the lawsuits he faced because of it. Strout passed a criminal background check, and polygraph and psychological tests, which are routine for all new patrolman hires, Hall said.

But Strout was let go by the town of Machias in 2011 after the town required him to take a psychological exam. The psychologist who conducted the exam later told Machias officials that Strout could not be certified, according to federal court documents. He also had been sued in 2013 in three separate federal lawsuits filed by different women who accused him of assaulting and inappropriately touching them while placing them under arrest. Two lawsuits were dismissed by agreement with the women involved in 2015. The third was also dismissed that year after the plaintiff stopped communicating with court officials. It is not clear if the two women who agreed to dismissals received any monetary settlement with the town.

Southwest Harbor had two full-time patrol positions to fill, even with Strout on the roster, Hall said Wednesday. The department has six full-time police officer positions — including Lt. Franklin Burke and patrolman Michael Boucher.

“It is difficult to find qualified candidates and fill positions,” he said Wednesday.

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....