Rosa Scarcelli says stepfather’s ethics complaint is ‘mean-spirited retaliation’ for lawsuit

Posted July 18, 2012, at 3:45 p.m.
Rosa Scarcelli
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PORTLAND, Maine — Rosa Scarcelli’s stepfather has filed a complaint with the Maine Ethics Commission against the former Democratic gubernatorial hopeful, claiming neither he nor his son authorized donations made to her 2010 campaign in their names.

Scarcelli on Wednesday said the ethics complaint is retaliation for a lawsuit she filed against her stepfather, Karl Norberg, over ownership and management of low-income housing firm GN Holdings LP.

“I think not only is it retaliation, but it’s tremendously mean-spirited and a case of revisionist history,” Scarcelli told the Bangor Daily News.

The official complaint, which the commission is scheduled to discuss during its July 25 meeting, adds another layer to a legal battle between Scarcelli and her mother and stepfather. The family dispute already includes two lawsuits and a countersuit, the latter of which also includes Norberg’s allegations about campaign finance wrongdoings.

Norberg did not immediately respond to an email or voice message Wednesday. Rockport attorney Dana Strout — who is now representing Norberg, GN Holdings and Scarcelli’s mother, Pamela Gleichman, in federal court — did not immediately return a call Wednesday either.

In his filing with the Maine Ethics Commission, Norberg claimed he was surprised to see his name and that of his son — Scarcelli’s 21-year-old half-brother — listed as donors to the Portland businesswoman’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign.

Norberg told the commission that $750 donations made in his name and that of his son, which he said were transferred to the campaign from the bank account of his wife’s firm Gleichman & Co., never were authorized by Norberg and his son.

Complicating matters, the donations appear in Scarcelli’s campaign ledger as $850 each — $100 greater than the maximum allowable financial gift for candidates in the 2010 gubernatorial race. The additional funds were accepted at the time under a provision which allows donors to include extra money, which must be reimbursed by the campaign, to be used in planning fundraiser events.

Norberg claimed neither he nor his son took part in the Chicago fundraiser event the additional money reportedly was tied to and therefore must be considered part of the base donations. That change would push the two financial gifts beyond the allowable campaign donation limits, potentially triggering commission repercussions.

Norberg is not disputing a similar donation made simultaneously by Gleichman, but told the commission Gleichman supported her daughter’s political campaign in hopes that her election would cause her to leave the family housing development businesses.

According to a commission account of a telephone interview with Gleichman, she told commission investigators that Norberg also felt “it would be better for the business if she got elected and left us alone.”

Scarcelli and her attorney countered in a response filed with the Maine Ethics Commission that the donation pledges from Norberg and his son were made during a family Christmas gathering in 2009. She added that Gleichman authorized all three financial transfers from the Gleichman & Co. account during the same holiday season, a vantage point backed in commission filings by Scarcelli’s campaign finance director at the time, Emily Mellencamp Smith.

“My hope is that the ethics commission will see this as absurd and that it’s retaliation,” Scarcelli said Wednesday. “I have been very clear about what happened.”

The Portland Democrat said her mother and stepfather initially threatened to make the campaign contribution allegations in early 2011 as an effort to dissuade Scarcelli from filing her lawsuit over GN Holdings.

“I was being threatened for an entire year,” she said, “but that whole year, I kept going through mediations and trying to find a solution. The counterclaim you see was actually a threatened lawsuit a year earlier. I knew it was going to get nasty at the time of the mediation.”

In each of two federal lawsuits filed by Scarcelli earlier this year, she has sought to take control of low-income housing developments she claimed were being mismanaged by Gleichman.

In the GN Holdings case, she is claiming to be 70 percent owner of the firm and that Norberg fabricated documents to indicate she has no stake in the outfit. Scarcelli and her attorneys have argued she must assert her authority in order to remove Gleichman from her management role in a slate of housing developments in Maine.

Scarcelli is claiming those complexes — which include Maple Tree Estates in Mapleton, Perramond Estates in Madawaska, Pittsfield Park Apartments in Pittsfield, Story Hill Apartments in Washburn, and Sara Pepper Place in Dixfield — are in desperate need of repairs after years of delinquent management by Gleichman.

The GN Holdings case — which includes Norberg’s countersuit alleging, among other things, the campaign finance fraud — is continuing in federal court.

Scarcelli was successful in a second case regarding her mother’s management of jointly owned housing, as U.S. District Court Judge George Z. Singal agreed with Scarcelli’s claim that Gleichman sought to sell a low-income housing project in Connecticut for personal gain. Singal made permanent an injunction that forces Gleichman to seek approvals from Scarcelli and another project stakeholder before attempting to sell the Connecticut property and prevents her from financially benefiting from such a sale if one were to occur.

Scarcelli told the BDN on Wednesday the wide-ranging dispute has been emotionally taxing and has driven a wedge between once-close family members.

“It was more exhausting to try and keep believing that [Gleichman] was going to change their ways and do the right thing than to come to terms with the fact that that person wasn’t going to change their ways, or even see that their actions were damaging to people,” she said. “I don’t wish her to fail. I want her to do the construction work [necessary to fix up the housing projects].”

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