AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine’s attorney general issued an opinion late Friday that advises State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin to “disassociate” himself from much of his business dealings while in office.
The five-page opinion from Attorney General William Schneider was in response to a request sent three weeks ago by state Rep. Mark Dion, D-Portland, to determine whether Poliquin had violated the state Constitution.
Dion alleged that Poliquin, as sole owner of the private Popham Beach Club, engaged in commerce, which appears to violate Article V, Part 3 Sec. 3 of the Maine Constitution.
Schneider wrote that the section of the constitution is “general and without limitation” but did not indicate whether he thought Poliquin violated the Constitution.
He did offer an opinion of what Poliquin should do next.
“With respect to the Treasurer, any activities related to the active management of stock or
other ownership interests should be handled by third persons in the absence of any authority
suggesting that such activities are acceptable when undertaken directly,” Schneider wrote. “During the Treasurer’s term in office he should take steps to disassociate himself from the active management of any of the entities in which he is invested and any entities in which he is the sole owner or principal or agent.
“Furthermore, he should not appear before any governmental bodies on behalf of entities that he owns.”
Poliquin late last year appeared before Phippsburg selectmen and the planning board to seek approval to expand the uses of a private beach club there. His application was approved.
Attempts to reach Poliquin at his office late Friday were not successful. The treasurer has not directly addressed questions about the constitutionality of his business dealings.
Earlier this week, Dion presented more evidence that Poliquin has been engaging in commerce. He said Poliquin, as sole owner and operator of Dirigo Holdings LLC, has been actively marketing and selling real estate.
Popham Woods, a condominium development offered by Dirigo Holdings, offers free membership in the Popham Beach Club included with purchase, a $2,000-per-year value.
In his opinion, Attorney General Schneider reiterated that the beach club is owned by Poliquin and that “all revenues and expenses of the Club are attributed personally to Mr. Poliquin.”
“Documents on file with the Maine Secretary of State indicate that Bruce L. Poliquin is the Clerk/Registered Agent and that the management of the Company is vested in the members,” the opinion said of Dirigo Holdings. “Mr. Poliquin has stated that he is the sole member of the Company.”
Shortly after Dion’s initial complaint last month, the Maine Democratic Party filed a complaint with the Maine Ethics Commission alleging that Poliquin violated ethics laws by not disclosing his business dealings.
The Ethics Commission is expected to take up that complaint later this month, but Poliquin filed a written response late last week in which he admitted that he didn’t disclose all his business dealings but insisted he did nothing wrong.
In the response, Poliquin disclosed his involvement with Dirigo Holdings, but said it’s simply an investment and that he is not directly involved with operations.
“Other than periodically providing funds for payment of expenses and periodically consulting with the manager/bookkeeper, who oversees the operation and management of Dirigo Holdings, LLC and Popham Woods Condominium, I am not engaged in the operations or management of these real estate investments,” he wrote.
Poliquin also said he didn’t disclose Dirigo Holdings initially because it didn’t make any money in 2010.
Dion said Friday that the attorney general’s opinion validated his concerns.
“If you read between the lines here, the attorney general indicates that Poliquin’s actions on behalf of the Popham Beach Club should’ve never happened and that he must take the next step to create a blind trust for his involvement in the real estate development company,” he said.
The state treasurer has endured criticism lately on a number of fronts.
Aside from the initial complaint by Dion and the subsequent complaint by the Maine Democratic Party, Poliquin has faced questions about enrolling most of his multimillion-dollar Georgetown property in the state’s tree growth program.
Last week, the nonprofit group Maine’s Majority questioned Poliquin’s enrollment of 10 acres into the tree growth program, a move that saved him thousands of dollars in property taxes each year.
A requirement of enrollment in the tree growth program is that the landowner must adopt sustainable, commercial timber harvesting practices on the property. Yet, his deed seems to prohibit timber harvesting.
The Board of Selectmen in Georgetown are expected to debate Poliquin’s tree growth management plan at a meeting next week.