Piscataquis Dems’ fundraising scrutinized

Posted May 13, 2010, at 11 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:59 a.m.

WILLIMANTIC, Maine — The Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices has been asked by a former Democratic Party official to investigate the Piscataquis County Democratic Party’s finance reports from 2004 to 2009 for fraud.

Julius Erdo III of Willimantic — a former chairman of the county’s Democratic committee who left the party in 2006 after committee members refused to reimburse him for expenses he said were approved by them — claims the committee’s finance reports for 2004 to 2009 were “inaccurate” and “deceiving.”

Jonathan Wayne, executive director of the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, said Thursday that the issue is whether or not the reports were accurate.

“He’s [Erdo] alleging that he provided contributions and loans to the committee which they did not fully report in their campaign finance report,” Wayne said. The commission recently sent a letter to the county committee asking for a response, he noted. Wayne said the commission will likely discuss the matter at its tentatively scheduled June 24 meeting.

Wayne said all candidates and political parties must file regular campaign reports with the agency. Any county party committee that raises or spends more than $1,500 in a calendar year is required to file three campaign reports with the office.

“I think that this is good for the political process to have county committees file reports of their contributions that they receive and the expenditures that they make,” Wayne said. Occasionally there are omissions in reports and the commission allows for those reports to be amended, he said, although it is “rare” for the commission to be asked to investigate such a claim as raised by Erdo.

Piscataquis County Democratic Committee member Sharon Libby Jones of Greenville said she was sure the matter will be resolved. “We do have a hearing at the ethics [commission] to review the campaign reports,” she said Thursday.

Erdo said he first raised concerns about the state committee reports with the ethics panel in 2006. While he continued to review the party’s filings, he said he became too busy with work and health matters and had been unable to revisit his concerns until this year.

“I felt from firsthand knowledge that the committee reports should be as accurate and truthful as candidate reports must be,” Erdo said Thursday. “I felt that they were using the committee funds like a piggybank. I mean there’s a lot of personal stuff that they bought.”

He also claimed that the Piscataquis County Democratic Party Committee had never had an audit done of its finances.

Patsy Fortier, treasurer of the committee, said the treasurer’s records were audited in 2006. “Every so often we have it done,” she said Thursday.

In his letter to the commission, Erdo claims that on May 8, 2006, he was asked by committee members for a $500 loan, which he said he gave in cash. The cash was never reported and no one knows where it went, he alleged Thursday.

Then on May 30, 2006, Erdo said he once again was asked for another $500 loan, which he said he funded. This was recorded on the finance report as a loan, but it was listed as $492.22 and it did not carry the correct date, he said. In an amended finance report filed later by the committee, Erdo said he was amazed to find that his loan had been marked “forgiven.”

Fortier said Thursday that Erdo had donated $500 to the committee. “He never loaned us any money,” she said. She declined to comment further about Erdo’s claims pending the hearing before the ethics commission.

Erdo also faulted a report filed with the commission on Jan. 16, 2007, for the period that ended Dec. 31, 2006, which noted a contribution from the committee to itself for $928.

Earler this year, Erdo filed a three-count lawsuit against the committee for loans and contractual services he said he had provided to it with its verbal approval. While he was seeking to recover $8,260.62 from the committee, Superior Court Justice William Anderson ruled that he was entitled to $1,726.72 plus interest and costs for services and goods he provided to the committee.

Erdo said Thursday that he had yet to receive a penny from the committee. Because he won a judgment, Erdo has also requested that his legal costs be paid.

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