Report: Lawmaker poked officer, said fireworks citation a 'mistake'

Posted July 20, 2009, at 3:05 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A state lawmaker from Old Town allegedly poked an officer in the chest and made belligerent and threatening statements to investigators cracking down on illegal fireworks on July 4, according to a report released Monday.

The lawmaker, Rep. Richard Blanchard, denied details of the report but said Monday he is interested in putting the issue behind him.

Reports from the incident allege that Blanchard repeatedly told officers that he was a state representative when they came to investigate fireworks at his Cold Stream Pond camp the evening of July 4.

The reports charge that Blanchard, who the officers said appeared intoxicated, angrily poked a fire marshal in the chest — an act that could have resulted in arrest. He also warned the officers that the issue was not over.

Click here to read the report.

“You boys have made a mistake,” Blanchard is quoted as saying in a report by Senior Investigator Scott Richardson with the State Fire Marshal’s Office.

Blanchard, a Democrat serving his third term in the Legislature, acknowledged identifying himself to the officers as a state representative at the beginning but denied that he repeated that fact. He declined further comment on the issue.

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“As far as I’m concerned, I paid my fine and I am ready to move on,” Blanchard said Monday afternoon.

Blanchard received one of seven summonses issued that night on Cold Stream Pond for illegal possession of fireworks. Fire Marshal John Dean said his office has received complaints about illegal fireworks displays on the pond for several years.

“We go to areas where we have had problems before,” Dean said Monday. “And we go to areas where we have had complaints, and believe me, we get plenty of complaints every year.”

Blanchard’s camp was the third site the two fire marshals and a game warden visited that night. The group docked their boat at the camp after seeing a large display from the area and a juvenile carrying fireworks.

But tensions rose as soon as the officers stepped foot on the property and approached the unnamed juvenile, according to the reports.

“We were immediately confronted by an older gentleman. He identified himself as Representative Blanchard and [said] to get off his dock,” Richardson wrote in his report. “I told the gentleman that we were going to seize the fireworks and summon the young man on the dock for possession of fireworks. Mr. Blanchard told me I was going to do no such thing as he was a state representative. He said, ‘You are going to leave my property.’”

As the discussion became more heated, Blanchard and others accused the officers of targeting only his camp, the report states. The officers allege they also were taunted by the group with mentions of doughnuts and that Blanchard said, “You’ve got a great job, don’t you?”

“It should be noted that during this interaction with Mr. Blanchard, he could be heard at least five or more times saying he was a state representative and this wouldn’t be over,” wrote Investigator Edward Hastings with the Fire Marshal’s Office.

Sgt. Ronald Dunham with the Maine Warden Service wrote in his report that he did not learn Blanchard was a state lawmaker until after the trio had left the property. He described Blanchard as “visibly intoxicated” and “verbally abusive” of the fire marshals.

The group at Blanchard’s camp allegedly later sang a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and further taunted the officers during a subsequent visit near the camp, the two fire marshals wrote in their reports.

Dean said Richardson could have arrested Blanchard for poking him but that the officer chose only to cite him for possession of fireworks, given the size of the crowd and the atmosphere.

“He certainly would have been within his rights to charge him with assault,” Dean said.

Several days after the confrontation, Blanchard apparently contacted Richardson to apologize, saying he was reacting angrily to the officers’ treatment of his grandsons that evening. Blanchard reportedly told Richardson he realized he was just doing his job but suggested that the officer would have responded the same way if it had been a member of his family.

“I told him that I disagreed and to have a nice day,” Richardson wrote.

Other members of Blanchard’s party also have accused the officers of intimidating the 15-year-old boy observed carrying fireworks.

It was unclear Monday what, if anything, would come of the newly released reports, but legislative leaders likely will take an interest.

Copies were being forwarded to House Speaker Hannah Pingree, D-North Haven, on Monday afternoon. Pingree spokesman Timothy Feeley said Pingree wants to read the reports before commenting.

The issue could be referred to the House Committee on Ethics.

Gov. John Baldacci, also a Democrat, to date has not become publicly involved in the issue other than to say that all people must be treated equally under the law.

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