AUGUSTA, Maine — An ethics complaint has been filed against the the principal committee that opposes the ban on bear baiting, according to Jonathan Wayne, executive director of Maine’s Ethics Commission.
The complaint alleges that the committee, called the Maine Wildlife Conservation Council, should have included time that Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife staff spent campaigning against the referendum as donations in its campaign finance reports.
The complaint was filed by Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting, the group that supports the ban.
On the Nov. 4 ballot, Question 1 will ask voters: “Do you want to ban bear hunting using bait, traps or dogs except to protect property, public safety or for research?”
The Maine Wildlife Conservation Council and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife have campaigned to get voters to vote “no” on the question. They state that if the referendum passes and these three hunting methods are banned, the state will not be able to manage Maine’s growing black bear population.
The Ethics Commission will hold a special meeting to consider the complaint at 2 p.m. Monday.
The complaint and a report by Ethics Commission staff said Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife staff members appeared in three television ads and held a rally and news conference in September 2013, which the Mainers for Fair Bear Baiting group says amounts to $10,000 worth of unreported in kind contributions to the campaign that opposes the referendum.
At issue is not whether the staff members should have participated in those activities, but whether they should have reported them to the Ethics Commission as contributions, Wayne said.
Both groups have spent about $2 million on their campaigns to influence voters on Question 1, according to the report by the Ethics Commission staff.
The Ethics Commission expects to receive a response from the No on 1 campaign.