State rep charged in illegal fireworks

Posted July 07, 2009, at 8 p.m.

ENFIELD, Maine — State Rep. Richard Blanchard of Old Town tried to use his position to dissuade a state fire marshal from citing him for illegal fireworks possession during a heated discussion at Blanchard’s camp on Abbott Road on the Fourth of July, authorities said Tuesday.

The 72-year-old Blanchard denied trying to use his position improperly. He was among seven people charged with possession of fireworks worth less than $100 during a fireworks suppression sweep by boat of Cold Stream Pond camps on Saturday night, said Lt. Joseph Thomas, assistant state fire marshal.

“He made reference as to whether he was recognizable as somebody of any importance,” Thomas said Tuesday.

“He said, ‘I am a state legislator.’ You can interpret that however you like,” Commissioner Anne H. Jordan of the Maine Department of Public Safety said after she was informed Tuesday of the incident. “Nobody gets favors. Nobody gets special treatment. He will be treated just like anybody else.”

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Thomas called the incident “a situation where somebody tries to impress upon somebody that they are of a certain position or character.”

Blanchard, a Democrat serving his third term for District 14, which includes Old Town and Penobscot Indian Island, said he introduced himself as a representative but thought nothing of it.

“It’s a force of habit, I guess,” Blanchard said Tuesday. “They asked who owned the property and I said I was Representative Blanchard from Old Town and that I was the property owner.”

The sweep and accusation of improper behavior set off their own fireworks. Blanchard, his 48-year-old daughter, Wendy Coyne of Old Town, and officials presented radically different versions of events that evening, which inspired more accusations and denials on both sides.

Blanchard at first denied all accusations and said the discussion with the fire marshal, Investigator Scott Richardson and Sgt. Ron Dunham with the Maine Warden Service, was civil. Then Coyne said that things became heated because the investigators used their positions to intimidate the representative’s 15-year-old grandson during the family’s party, which had about 30 guests.

“Things got out of hand when the warden and the fire marshal stopped at our dock, came onto our property and got into my 15-year-old nephew’s face and said, ‘Show me your ID,’” Coyne said Tuesday. “They were very rude and abrupt with him.”

The investigators, Coyne said, refused to answer questions from the boy’s parents and kept harassing him until Blanchard and the boy’s father intervened, walking off to confer privately with Richardson and Dunham.

“We certainly asked if we were being specifically targeted for a specific reason,” she added. “There were fireworks going on around the entire lake. They said they were only one boat and there was only so much they could do.”

Thomas and Jordan denied that Richardson and Dunham behaved improperly. “He [Blanchard] was upset and the investigators used the greatest restraint,” Thomas said.

The investigators came to the Blanchard camp because the 15-year-old was shooting fireworks, Jordan said. The 15-year-old was merely walking to the dock with his father, not shooting fireworks, Coyne said.

Thomas and Jordan also accused Blanchard of pointing a finger at the investigators during the discussion, which Blanchard could not recall doing. He did eventually say that the conversation became somewhat heated.

Blanchard said he knew that shooting fireworks was illegal, but considered it a minor offense.

“We have known it for years. There have been fireworks on this lake for years. There are fireworks everywhere,” he said.

Blanchard said he doesn’t plan to contest the summons when it goes to Lincoln District Court on Aug. 4.

“I just want to put it to bed and pay the fine,” he said.

Richardson’s report on the incident will likely be finished within a few days, Thomas said.

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