October 19, 2019
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County GOP treasurer quits amid claims of missing funds

LEWISTON, Maine — The treasurer for the Androscoggin County Republican Committee has resigned his position with the political organization, and executive committee members have called for the removal of Chairman Stavros Mendros.

Mark Ramsay of Lisbon Falls, who has served as treasurer of the Androscoggin GOP committee for about two years, resigned Dec. 1 after $8,000 was discovered missing from the committee’s bank account, according to executive committee member Jason Greene.

Michael Marcotte, a state committeeman who is also a member of the executive committee, said that money since has been repaid.

Greene said after a unanimous vote of no confidence against Mendros by the executive committee, a motion will be made when the full GOP voting membership meets at the Ricker Memorial Library in Poland on Dec. 17 to remove Mendros from his post for failure to properly oversee the committee’s finances.

“He has a responsibility to oversee the health of the finances of the county committee,” Greene said, “and he kept the committee in the dark.”

According to Mendros, who lives in Lewiston, he went to the Maine Family Federal Credit Union on Nov. 20 to withdraw $300 from the GOP account to pay an outstanding bill, and was told there were not enough funds to cover the check. In October, Ramsay had reported to the executive committee that there was more than $9,200 in its accounts.

Mendros said he met with bank officials and was told the money had been withdrawn from ATM locations around the state over a period of months.

He said he sought advice from a number of people in the GOP, many of whom urged him to seek legal counsel, which he did. He was advised not to tell anyone about the missing money until he had a chance to talk with Ramsay face to face, Mendros said, and he tried three times but was unable to make contact.

“At that point,” he said, “it was Thanksgiving and I decided to wait until the state party chair Rick Bennett was back (from vacation) and speak with him.”

According to Mendros, after consulting with Bennett on Nov. 30, he called for an emergency meeting of the executive committee that evening. Most members were not available, so the committee scheduled the meeting for Tuesday, Dec. 1, which was a night that Mendros said he could not attend.

That’s not how the discovery of the missing money unfolded, according to Greene, who said Mendros has overstated his role.

Greene said a member of the executive committee called him on Nov. 29 after hearing a rumor about missing money. And, under the committee’s bylaws, members are required to post a 48-hour notice for a meeting, so the meeting was set for Dec. 1, Greene said.

“On our own, the executive committee acted on the rumor, did an investigation, and determined that, yes, money was missing from the account,” Greene said.

When Mendros said he wasn’t available to meet on Dec. 1, Greene said he told Mendros, “This is an emergency situation and we’re going to meet with or without you.”

When the executive committee convened the meeting, members reviewed bank statements showing that much of the money had been withdrawn from two ATMs — one at Hollywood Slots in Bangor and the other at Oxford Casino in Oxford. After that review, the committee called Ramsay for an explanation and Greene said Ramsay admitted to moving the money. The committee immediately asked for and received Ramsay’s resignation.

During their conversation with Ramsay, committee members asked him whether Mendros — in his capacity as chairman — had ever exercised any oversight over the bank accounts, according to Les Gibson, the most recent past vice president of the committee. Ramsay said Mendros never asked him for any financial accounting.

Members then unanimously passed a vote of no-confidence against Mendros, and wrote a formal letter asking for his resignation in accordance with its bylaws, Gibson said.

The request for Mendros’ resignation was based on a number of things, Greene said, including the fact that Mendros had known about the missing money since Nov. 20 and did not inform executive committee members until more than a week later. Members also felt Mendros had not upheld his fiduciary responsibility to the committee and its members to monitor bank accounts and ensure bills were paid on time.

At its Dec. 1 meeting, the committee asked Ramsay to pay restitution of the missing funds, which he agreed to do. According to Gibson, Ramsay turned over a check for $7,800 on Tuesday morning, which since has been deposited in the GOP account.

Mendros said that when he learned of the arrangement for Ramsay to pay back the money, and the executive committee’s decision to consider the missing money an internal incident that was investigated and resolved, he got angry.

“This is not my money or the executive committee’s money,” Mendros said. “It belongs to the entire committee and ultimately the Republicans of this county.”

Mendros said he believed the committee owed the community some public accountability.

“It was totally incorrect,” he said. Committee members refused to seek legal counsel before agreeing to a repayment plan, Mendros said. “I know how this is going to look,” he said, because people will eventually find out. “It’s going to have to come out in the (Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices) report, anyway, that this money was moved around.”

Greene and Gibson emphatically denied any cover-up and said it was Mendros — in his fiduciary duty as the committee chairman — who didn’t act quickly enough to identify the missing money and arrange for its return.

“It was an internal matter that was resolved and Mr. Mendros chose not to be part of the resolution,” Greene said. “The money was missing. We asked for it back. He paid it back. We consider it resolved.”

“I’m upset I am being accused of a cover-up,” Greene said, “when we were doing the right thing to get the funds restored.”

Mendros met with District Attorney Andrew Robinson on Monday and asked for a formal investigation into the missing money, a move not authorized by the executive committee.

But, Greene said, “if we have an obligation to do something further, we will of course cooperate.”

On Tuesday, Mendros said he wanted to be certain the money had been returned so he went to the bank late in the afternoon to check the account and learned that the executive committee sent a letter to the bank removing him from the account. He said he has copies of the bank statements from last week, though, showing a balance of less than $50, which he intends to keep as a record in support of his actions.

Gibson, a signatory on the account, said Tuesday that he was the one who requested that Mendros’ permission and passwords to access the GOP accounts be disabled. Gibson since has assumed temporary treasurer duties for the Androscoggin GOP.

According to Marcotte, based on this experience, members of the executive committee will set new financial rules and will “request a charter change as far as the protocols for the treasurer and any other (debit) card-holder to exercise.”

Maine Republican Party Chairman Bennett said he was aware of the situation in Androscoggin County but declined to comment, referring questions to local committee members.

Multiple attempts to reach Ramsay by phone were not successful.

 



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