House speaker calls for ethics review of fireworks incident

Posted July 21, 2009, at 1:44 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine – House Speaker Hannah Pingree is asking a legislative ethics committee to determine whether Rep. Richard Blanchard, D-Old Town, attempted to use his position to avoid a July 4 fireworks citation.

In a short letter sent Tuesday to the chairman of the House Ethics Committee, Pingree asked that the committee investigate claims that Blanchard “attempted to use his office to receive preferential treatment” from several law enforcement officers.

Pingree’s request comes one day after the Department of Public Safety publicly released the written reports from two fire marshals and a game warden who responded to Blanchard’s Cold Stream Pond camp on the evening of July 4.

Click here to read the report.

The reports allege that Blanchard and other guests at his party were verbally abusive to the officers and that the lawmaker repeatedly mentioned his position in the Legislature. Senior Investigator Scott Richardson with the Fire Marshal’s Office also alleges that Blanchard, who the reports stated had been drinking, poked Richardson in the chest and warned that the officers were making a mistake.

Blanchard was one of seven people to receive citations for illegal possession of fireworks that night on Cold Stream Pond.

Blanchard, who is serving his third term in the Legislature, has denied repeatedly mentioning his position to the officers. On Tuesday, Blanchard issued a statement saying he respected Pingree’s decision and would “work openly” with the House Ethics Committee.

“On July 4th I allowed fireworks to be set off on my property, which is against the law,” Blanchard said in the statement. “I want to apologize to the people of Old Town and Indian Island, to the citizens of Maine and my legislative colleagues for making a bad decision and setting a poor example.

“As a person entrusted by my community to develop Maine law, I should hold myself to a much higher standard – and for failing to meet that standard I’m truly sorry,” he said.

The House Ethics Committee comprises four Democrats and four Republicans. It is chaired by Rep. Mark Bryant, D-Windham.

Pingree’s office said the committee will likely meet sometime this summer.

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