Ex-House member indicted for theft in connection to campaign fund misuse

Posted Feb. 08, 2012, at 1:51 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 08, 2012, at 3:54 p.m.
David R. Burns
David R. Burns

AUGUSTA, Maine — A grand jury in York County has indicted former Rep. David R. Burns on charges of felony theft in connection with the misuse of public campaign funds during his 2010 campaign.

According to the 8-page indictment, Burns, of Alfred, has been charged with one count of Class C theft, three counts of Class D forgery and a handful of other misdemeanor charges for misappropriating campaign funds and falsifying financial disclosure documents.

Burns, a first-time Republican lawmaker elected to House District 138, stepped down from his seat last week after the attorney general’s office said it was pursuing criminal charges. He resigned from the Alfred Board of Selectmen in January.

House Speaker Robert Nutting, R-Oakland, said last week that it was appropriate for Burns to step down.

“We Republicans insist our members maintain the highest ethical standards possible,” the speaker said.

About two months ago, Burns was found by the Maine Ethics Commission to have committed several violations of the state’s Clean Election Act.

As a Clean Election candidate, Burns 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, chairman of the Ethics Commission, called Burns’ misconduct “mind-boggling,” during a November hearing. 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.

Burns likely will make an initial court appearance in York County Superior Court later this month on the criminal charges.

A special election will be held in the coming months to fill Burns’ seat in the House.

The last lawmaker to be charged for violating the Maine Clean Election Act was Rep. William Walcott, a three-term Democrat from Prentiss in Androscoggin County.

Walcott was investigated in 2006 and eventually stepped down from his House seat. About two years later, he pleaded guilty to charges of misusing campaign funds and served six months in jail.

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