Alfred lawmaker to step down from House in wake of ethics violations

By Eric Russell, BDN Staff
Posted Jan. 31, 2012, at 12:54 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A York County lawmaker resigned from his House seat on Tuesday, about two months after the Maine Ethics Commission found that he committed multiple violations of the state’s Clean Election law.

Rep. David R. Burns, R-Alfred, also will face criminal charges next week in connection with his campaign conduct, according to the Maine Attorney General’s Office.

House Speaker Robert Nutting of Oakland announced Burns’ resignation.

“Earlier [Tuesday], I spoke with David Burns of Alfred who informed me that he is resigning from his position as state representative, effective immediately,” Nutting said in a statement. “The announcement follows the completion of the Attorney General’s investigation into Burns’ alleged mishandling of Clean Election funds.

“I believe this is the appropriate step for him to take, as we Republicans insist our members maintain the highest ethical standards possible.

In late November, the Maine Ethics Commission ruled that Burns committed numerous violations of the Maine Clean Election Act during his 2010 campaign.

Burns was a first-time House member who was elected in November 2010. He represented House District 138 and the towns of Alfred, Limerick, Newfield and Shapleigh.

As a Clean Election candidate, he received public funds to run his campaign and in return was subject to strict guidelines for how those funds were spent and how the expenditures were recorded.

An audit report revealed, among other things, that Burns co-mingled campaign finances with personal finances, falsified receipts, used public money for personal expenses and failed to accurately report expenditures.

Walter McKee, who is chairman of the Ethics Commission, called Burns’ misconduct “mind-boggling.” McKee also said he was bothered by what he called “righteous indignation” by Burns and his campaign staff when the audit report first was revealed.

The Ethics Commission ordered Burns to pay back $2,285 in public funds that he did not use for his campaign and also recommended a fine of between $5,000 and $10,000.

At the time, commission members also recommended that the Maine Attorney General’s Office investigate the conduct for possible criminal prosecution.

AG spokeswoman Brenda Kielty confirmed Tuesday that the criminal investigation was complete and said her office would initiate formal charges by next week. She did not specify what those charges would be.

Some Democrats have been calling for Burns’ resignation for weeks. House Minority Leader Emily Cain of Orono lobbied another plea Tuesday, not long before Nutting broke the news.

“I’m relieved to see that Rep. Burns finally resigned his seat after months of controversy around his abuse of Clean Elections funds,” Cain said in a press release after Burns’ resignation Tuesday. “No lawmaker — Republican or Democrat — is above the law. We must be held to higher standard and should not tolerate the abuse of taxpayer dollars.”

All along, Nutting has said he would wait for the Attorney General’s Office to finish its investigation before suggesting any action.

“Regrettably, Representative Emily Cain issued a press release this morning, calling for Burns’ resignation before there had been a resolution to the matter,” the speaker said. “I felt it was more appropriate to proceed with the presumption of innocence for Representative Burns while the investigation was ongoing.”

A special election likely will be held in the coming months to fill his House seat.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/01/31/politics/alfred-lawmaker-to-step-down-from-house-in-wake-of-ethics-violations/ printed on October 31, 2014