AUGUSTA — State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin should take steps to disassociate himself from his real estate and financial holdings, according to Attorney General William Schneider.
Schneider issued his opinion Friday afternoon following an inquiry by Rep. Mark Dion, D-Portland, about whether Poliquin had violated a provision in the Maine Constitution designed to limit the treasurer’s business dealings while he or she is responsible for the state treasury.
Schneider’s ruling stopped short of saying Poliquin’s ownership of Dirigo Holdings LLC falls outside the bounds of Article V, Pt. 3. However, the AG said it was clear the treasurer was prohibited from accepting “other employment” or providing “other services to others while in office.”
The AG added that while it was OK for the treasurer to have stock holdings, they should be managed by a third party. Poliquin was a limited partner in a money management and real estate firm, Zweig-DiMenna Partners LP. It’s unclear whether he is managing those investments.
Schneider also noted that Poliquin should not appear before governmental bodies on behalf of the businesses he owns.
The latter is a reference to Poliquin’s appearance before the Phippsburg Board of Selectmen in December when he sought to expand the business license for his Popham Beach Club.
Poliquin has not responded to most media requests regarding the issue. However, during an appearance on WGAN 560 earlier this week, he acknowledged that his appearance at the Phippsburg meeting was “a mistake.”
Poliquin also told the radio show that he has a bookkeeper managing his other investments at Dirigo Holdings LLC. The treasurer also said Dion’s request for an opinion from the AG and a separate ethics complaint filed against him by the Maine Democratic Party were politically motivated.
“It doesn’t pass the straight-face test for someone to say that the treasurer of the state of Maine, who is working 80 or 90 hours a week, can also be self-employed,” Poliquin said.
The outspoken treasurer added that his attempt to change the culture in Augusta had made him a political target for Democrats.
Dion, who requested Schneider’s advisory opinion last month, said the AG had validated his concerns about the potential constitutional conflict. Dion added that Schneider had given the treasurer a road map to resolve the issue, including putting his stock investments in a blind trust, building a firewall between himself and Dirigo Holdings LLC and not appearing before governmental bodies to advocate for his business entities.
“Those were the core issues we raised,” Dion said.
What happens next will likely be up to leaders within the Republican-controlled Legislature, which elects the treasurer and other constitutional officers.
Poliquin was elected in December 2010.