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Priest Suspended In Sex Scandal Went To Work For Disney

Jun 21, 2002 | The Orlando Sentinal A prominent Missouri priest, suspended in 1999 after allegations of sexual abuse of pre-pubescent girls and teens dating to 1971, found work at Walt Disney World -- until last week.

Hugh Behan, 63, was the longtime editor of the Catholic Missourian, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Jefferson City; chaplain to death-row inmates and the Missouri Legislature; and a television host.

Born in Ireland, he lives in Davenport in Polk County.

Behan "no longer works for the company," Disney spokesman Bill Warren said. "That's all I can share with you out of respect for his privacy."

However, Warren said that Behan, who worked part time as a greeter at the park's transportation center for almost two years, had no complaints against him involving sexual impropriety.

In a telephone interview, Behan said he resigned from Disney a week ago "for health reasons" after surgery.

When asked, Behan did not deny the allegations against him in Missouri, but would not comment further.

"I don't want to get into that," he said. "I don't want to say anything."

When Behan was suspended by Jefferson City Bishop John Gaydos in January 1999, the diocese reported that he was taking a leave of absence without providing details.

The chancellor of the Diocese of Jefferson City, Sister Ellen Marie Biri, said Thursday that Behan had been through several treatment programs around the country after various allegations. She then informed diocese officials here that Behan had been suspended for the latest incident, which involved an 18-year-old woman.

"We made sure the Orlando diocese knew," she told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The Osage County, Mo., Sheriff's Department is investigating another allegation involving a 10-year-old girl, Biri said, , but no criminal charges or civil suits have yet been filed.

In late April, the Missouri diocese called Sister Lucy Vazquez, chancellor of the Diocese of Orlando, at home with the information that the former priest had moved to Central Florida and was working at Disney World.

The next day, Vazquez contacted Disney, said Carol Brinati, communications director for the Diocese of Orlando.

Disney then contacted the Diocese of Jefferson City, asking for details of the allegations against Behan, according to a source in the chancellor's office.

Warren would not confirm any contacts with the Jefferson City diocese. He said that all prospective employees go through a criminal background check.

"We typically look for things that are legally accountable," he said.

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