June 19, 2018
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Democrats to ask state’s top court whether Poliquin violated Maine Constitution

Derek Davis | BDN
Derek Davis | BDN
Bruce Poliquin
By Eric Russell, BDN Staff

AUGUSTA, Maine — House Democrats on Tuesday plan to ask the Maine Supreme Judicial Court to issue a ruling on whether Treasurer Bruce Poliquin violated the Maine Constitution by actively engaging in commerce while in office.

Several weeks ago, Rep. Mark Dion, D-Portland, sent a letter to Attorney General William Schneider asking for his opinion on whether Poliquin had violated the state constitution.

The House member and former Cumberland County sheriff 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.

Dion presented more evidence earlier this month that Poliquin has been engaging in commerce, specifically that Poliquin is the sole owner of Dirigo Holdings LLC, and has been actively marketing and selling real estate.

In his five-page opinion issued earlier this month, Schneider wrote that Poliquin should “disassociate” himself from his business holdings and outlined steps the treasurer should take to ensure that he doesn’t violate the constitution in the future. He stopped short of opining on whether Poliquin committed any past violations.

“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.”

Schneider further wrote that the section of the constitution in question is “general and without limitation.”

On Monday, Dion said he wasn’t satisfied with the attorney general’s response.

On Tuesday, when the House is in session, Dion plans to file a “House Order Propounding Questions to the Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court.” If passed, the order would request the Maine supreme court to give its opinion on whether Poliquin’s actions prohibit him from continuing to serve in office.

“The opinion from the attorney general makes it clear that the Treasurer should not have engaged in lobbying the Phippsburg Planning Board on behalf of the Popham Beach Club, or overseeing his multimillion-dollar real estate developments,” Dion said in a statement. “If the attorney general will not hold Mr. Poliquin accountable, the responsibility falls to the Legislature which dictates our duty to seek guidance from the state’s supreme court.

“We have evidence that a constitutional officer has violated the constitution. You can’t break the law and simply walk away from it.”

Since the House is controlled by Republicans, it’s not likely Dion’s request will be approved but Republicans might be forced to defend Poliquin.

Poliquin has declined to talk to members of the media about Dion’s complaint, but during a recent Capitol for a Day event with Gov. Paul LePage in Madison, the treasurer said the attacks against him have been politically motivated.

On Wednesday, the Maine Ethics Commission is expected to rule on a complaint by the Maine Democratic Party that Poliquin failed to adequately disclose his finances.

According to the commission’s agenda, the staff recommends a finding that the 2010 income disclosure form filed by Poliquin did not comply with state requirements. However, staff did not recommend a penalty.

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