LEWISTON, Maine — In the wake of a scandal involving $8,000 in missing cash, the Androscoggin County Republican Committee during a private meeting Thursday voted to remove its chairman, Stavros Mendros of Lewiston.
Earlier this month, Mendros alerted the Androscoggin County District Attorney’s Office and the media that he had discovered the money missing when he went to pay a bill for the committee in late November and its bank account was almost drained.
The committee’s treasurer, Mark Ramsay of Lisbon Falls, resigned from his post on Dec. 1. According to Michael Marcotte, a member of the Androscoggin GOP Executive Committee, the missing money had been repaid to the committee’s account.
Mendros had previously said he felt he had to report the missing money to the district attorney because he was concerned a crime had been committed and he believed members of the Executive Committee had worked to cover it up.
He said Friday that the majority in the party in Androscoggin County disagreed with his approach.
“The committee wanted to keep it quiet, but I believed that to be immoral and illegal, but the majority did not agree,” Mendros said.
“I absolutely disagreed with it being kept secret,” he said. “Lots of people come to those [fundraising] events and they donate money and they have a right to know what happened,” Mendros said. He said he believed the district attorney would have likely cleared those involved of any wrongdoing, but he wanted an independent investigation.
“I stand by what I did,” Mendros said. “There’s too much secrecy in politics and that’s why no one trusts politicians anymore: They want to hide everything instead of facing it.”
Jason Greene, an at-large member of the Executive Committee, on Friday issued a short statement to the Sun Journal via email:
“At a well-attended meeting in Poland, the Androscoggin County Republican Committee came together and chose a new direction,” the statement read. “We thank Mr. Mendros for his two years of service, and we look forward to electing a new Chairman and Treasurer at our January meeting.”
Greene declined further comment on the meeting.
But Androscoggin GOP members who attended the meeting, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Maine GOP Chairman Rick Bennett officiated the meeting and that Mendros was removed in a secret ballot vote in which at least two-thirds of those voting agreed to that change.
Those in attendance said the decision to oust Mendros was not unanimous and that several spoke in Mendros’ defense.
Mendros, who works as a political consultant and campaign adviser, said he had not decided whether he would remain a member of the GOP, but by not being the county chairman anymore, he would have more business options.
“I’m much more able to focus on my business without there being a conflict of interest,” he said. “Even if, when there were Democrats that I liked, I couldn’t sell products to them, and with Republicans it was awkward because I was the county chair, so now I can work for whoever I want.”
Mendros said earlier this month that 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 the account.
Mendros said he met with bank officials and was told the money had been withdrawn from various ATM locations around the state over a period of months. Much of the money had been withdrawn from two ATMs — one at Hollywood Slots in Bangor and the other at Oxford Casino in Oxford.
Following Mendros’ actions, the Executive Committee asked for his resignation, which he did not submit.
Greene told the Sun Journal at the time that the request for Mendros’ resignation was based on a number of things, 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, Greene said.
At its Dec. 1 meeting, the committee asked Ramsay to repay the missing funds, which he did.
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 told the Sun Journal at the time. “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.