AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Ethics Commission will hear public testimony from former Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Rosa Scarcelli, her stepfather and potentially others as it looks to resolve allegations from Scarcelli’s stepfather, Karl Norberg, that the Democratic candidate listed him and his son as contributors to her 2010 campaign without their permission.
Ethics commissioners decided Wednesday that public testimony offered the best chance for determining whether Scarcelli’s campaign violated state campaign finance laws when it listed Norberg and his 21-year-old son as contributors. The hearing is expected to take place at the ethics commission’s next meeting, which is on Aug. 22.
Commissioners were considering a complaint filed by Norberg in which he said he was surprised to see his and his son’s names listed as donors to Scarcelli’s unsuccessful gubernatorial bid.
Norberg told ethics commission staff that he and his son never authorized $750 donations made in their names that were transferred to the campaign from the bank account of Gleichman & Co., the firm owned by Pamela Gleichman, who is Norberg’s wife and Scarcelli’s mother.
Scarcelli told the Bangor Daily News last week that her stepfather’s ethics complaint was retaliation for a lawsuit she filed against Norberg over the ownership and management of Scarcelli’s low-income housing firm, GN Holdings LP. In a response to Norberg’s complaint, Scarcelli said her relationship with her stepfather had deteriorated recently, but that Norberg had “unequivocally” supported her gubernatorial bid two years ago.
“We have a complaint, and we have divergent views of the facts,” said commission Chairman Walter McKee. “I’m struggling to figure out how we can resolve these issues without sworn testimony.”
Scarcelli’s lawyer, Russell Pierce, told ethics commissioners Wednesday that witnesses from Scarcelli’s family and campaign staff would back up the candidate’s account that Gleichman, Norberg and his son agreed to make campaign contributions at a 2009 Christmas dinner. Pierce said Scarcelli followed up on the conversation to confirm their intentions three days later.
Norberg’s account of events, Pierce said, leaves out key details and raises suspicions that his allegations are false.
“If the campaign has taken all of these steps to confirm at the time that the donation is authorized, then the campaign is in no violation,” he said.
Norberg didn’t attend the ethics commission meeting, and he couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.
To add to 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 that 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, the $100 extra 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 penalties.
The testimony requested by the ethics commission will add another public dimension to a family feud already made public by two lawsuits and a countersuit. Scarcelli recently prevailed against Gleichman in a suit over the sale of a Connecticut apartment complex. And in a suit pending in U.S. District Court, Scarcelli is attempting to prove she has the authority to fire her mother.
In both suits, Scarcelli is alleging that her mother isn’t properly maintaining housing projects tied to Scarcelli’s firm, GN Holdings.
A countersuit from Gleichman and Norberg alleges that Scarcelli improperly used funds from her low-income housing firm to bankroll her gubernatorial bid, and also includes the allegations Norberg brought to the Maine Ethics Commission.
Scarcelli came in third in a four-way Democratic primary won by former Senate President Libby Mitchell.