Former priest Daniel Mackay was convicted on three counts of prostitution last year, specifically for soliciting a 17-year-old girl for sex, but he’ll still be teaching at Lane Community College this fall term, even though his conviction may fall under “potentially disqualifying crimes” for employment, according to the school’s background check policy.
Mackay taught at LCC for about a decade before his conviction as well as at Northwest Christian University. He was suspended from teaching at NCU after his arrest in 2016, says Patrick Walsh, the college’s senior director of marketing and communications.
“After he was arrested, he did not teach here,” Walsh says. “He was placed on administrative suspension pending the outcome of those charges.” Walsh says all faculty members are on a one-year contract at the school and Mackay did not make an attempt to renew his contract.
Mackay is now suspended from his duties as a priest, but worked at St. John the Wonderworker Orthodox Church in the Whiteaker neighborhood.
In 2016, Mackay was arrested and charged with 10 crimes: attempt to commit a Class B felony (using a minor to traffic a controlled substance — he allegedly asked the girl to obtain cocaine for him), four counts of prostitution, four counts of endangering the welfare of a child and one count of sexual misconduct.
The felony charge was dropped before the trial when a hair follicle test going back a year and a half was clean of all drug residue. Mackay was found guilty on three counts of prostitution — misdemeanors in Oregon that don’t require registration as a sex offender, but not guilty for all of the other charges.
“The original felony drug charge/s were not pursued once the investigation revealed that although requested, no controlled substances were actually delivered,” JoAnn Miller, prosecuting attorney for the case, tells EW via email. “Other charges referencing endangerment of a minor require proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knew the witness was under the age of 18 and although testimony revealed some such evidence, it did not rise to that level.”
Mackay believes he was wrongfully convicted and strongly maintains his innocence. He is in the process of appealing his conviction.
“I never solicited her for sex. I never had sex with her,” Mackay says.
He adds: “Most of the people in that courtroom did not think I was guilty.”
He says he first met the girl involved in the case at a 7-Eleven where she was asking for money. Mackay says he then met with her several more times and had also gotten her a motel room, something he says he had done in the past for houseless people in need.
Eventually the girl was taken into police custody on prostitution charges, Mackay explains. Officers then took her phone and saw past texts from Mackay, he says.
“Because of texts about me getting a motel room, they assumed I was a john,” Mackay says.
A Eugene detective used the girl’s phone to pose as her and texted Mackay. Though the text message transcript was sealed by the grand jury, The Register-Guard and other news outlets previously reported that the detective texted Mackay asking him to purchase a condom. Mackay responded that they should “do it BB.”
“BB” is commonly used as slang for “bareback” — sex without a condom — but Mackay says he was referring to Burrito Boy, a restaurant where he and the girl had met for food.
Mackay was sentenced to three years’ probation; he’s served a year and a half of supervised probation and has a year and a half left of bench probation, he says. He also was sentenced to 90 days in Lane County Jail, 60 of which he was eligible to serve in an alternative program. Mackay says he only served nine days in Lane County Jail total.
He says he also took a single required eight-hour class ran by LifeWorks NorthWest called the Sex Buyer Accountability class.
Mackay claims the girl was lying in her testimony as a way to negotiate her own charges. He also says there were various “errors” made in court that he is basing his appeal on, though he refused to describe them.
He says he and his family are attempting to move forward from the situation. “This whole thing has been difficult for my family and the community at St. John’s [church],” he says.
Mackay is returning to LCC to teach this term in the Language Literature and Communication department.
“Lane Community College does not comment on the personal lives of its employees, nor on personnel matters, except to confirm employment,” Joan Aschim, LCC’s Public Information Officer, says. “Daniel Mackay does have a part-time teaching assignment this fall.”
She adds: “I assure you that Lane maintains a zero tolerance policy for inappropriate conduct in the learning and working environment.”
According to the college’s policy on criminal background checks, Mackay’s conviction, the three counts of prostitution — Class A misdemeanors, fall under the category of “potentially disqualifying crimes.”
To then be hired, there has to be a “fitness determination” taking into account things like “the nature of the crime” and “intervening circumstances” like the “recommendation of an employer.”
EW asked Aschim how the school decided to bring back Mackay after his conviction. She replied: “As I mentioned before, we do not discuss personnel matters.”
EW reached out to the Lane Community College Education Association, LCC’s faculty union, for comment on the circumstances of Mackay’s employment, but did not receive a response before print time. EW also reached out to the Associated Students of Lane Community College and similarly did not receive a response.
Beginning this week, Mackay, a part-time instructor at the school, is currently teaching Writing 122, a research and argumentative writing course.