Alfred selectmen say investigation of Rep. David Burns is harming board’s integrity

Posted Jan. 18, 2012, at 12:27 p.m.

ALFRED, Maine — Two members of the three-member Alfred Board of Selectmen say comments and concerns of citizens are calling into question the integrity of the board after the third selectmen, state Rep. David R. Burns, was found by the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices to have violated state election laws.

Burns, the state representative for District 138 who is also facing a possible probe of his 2010 State House campaign by the Maine Attorney General’s Office, has largely remained silent about his situation.

Burns was unopposed in his March 2011 re-election bid for a three-year term on the Alfred Board of Selectmen.

He was elected in November 2010 to the Maine House of Representatives for a term that began in January 2011. In November, he was found by the state ethics commission to have violated eight Maine election laws, including falsifying records, misusing Maine Clean Election Act funds, illegally mingling clean election funds with personal funds, making false statements, using funds not related to his campaign, misreporting expenditures, using campaign funds for personal use, and using clean election funds to pay for goods received before his certification as an clean election candidate.

Alfred Selectmen John Sylvester and Glen Dochtermann say citizens are asking “harsh and important” questions.

“It was reported to [Burns] that both fellow selectmen and staff have been confronted with these comments and concerns and many questions, to the point that the integrity of the select board is now in question,” minutes of the three-member board’s Jan. 3 meeting state. “If this environment continues, they fear many years of good work by the board will suffer serious harm. The two agreed that the time for [Burns] to speak to Alfred citizens on this serious matter is rapidly disappearing.”

Selectmen have discussed the issues surrounding Burns’ recent State House troubles over the past two meetings, said Sylvester in a telephone interview Monday, and were expected to take up the matter again when the board met at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Sylvester and Dochtermann had agreed that no action was needed when the news of Burns’ difficulties first became known, meeting minutes say, but that changed as time went on and there was a more thorough understanding of the situation. Citizens began asking questions and Burns remained silent.

Burns has declined to return repeated telephone messages seeking comment, but told Sylvester and Dochtermann on Jan. 3 that “this has been and continues to weigh heavily on me.”

He told the other two selectmen that his lawyer had advised him to say nothing, and asked Dochtermann and Sylvester if they felt he should resign immediately at the meeting.

The minutes don’t reflect an answer to that question by either of the two selectmen. Sylvester said that is because the board agreed to continue talking. Dochtermann did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

The two selectmen urged Burns to make a public statement as quickly as possible.

He assured the board “he would not leave the town hanging,” and asked for a week to consider what had been said.

The Jan. 3 conversation with Burns was held in public session. He did not attend the Jan. 10 meeting because of illness, Sylvester said, but met with the two others in a special selectmen’s meeting Friday. Sylvester said the town’s attorney, Ronald Bourque, said the meetings could be held in either open or closed-door session, depending on Burns’ wishes, and that he had elected for a closed-door session Jan. 13.

Burns was scheduled to be in Augusta for the legislative session Tuesday, and if he is not back in Alfred in time for the selectmen’s meeting they’ll discuss the issue by telephone, Sylvester said Monday. It was unclear at press time whether that session will be in public or executive session.

Burns, a Republican, beat out Democrat Diana Waterman by 161 votes in the November 2010 election for House District 138, which includes Alfred, Limerick, Newfield and Shapleigh.

In November, the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices ordered Burns to repay about $2,300 after finding him guilty of violating election law, but held off on assessing penalties and referred the matter to the attorney general for possible criminal prosecution.

Burns said he “has not been charged or convicted of anything,” according to the meeting minutes.

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