AUBURN – Former state lawmaker and current Lewiston City Councilor Stavros Mendros pleaded guilty Monday to three misdemeanor counts stemming from referendum petition drives that he oversaw.
Mendros, 39, had maintained his innocence, saying last month he looked forward to being exonerated at trial.
On Monday, he said he couldn’t justify spending thousands of dollars on attorney’s fees that would have come out of his family budget. He decided instead to pay $2,000 in fines.
“It just wasn’t worth fighting over and splitting hairs,” he said.
He admitted not following proper procedure in his capacity as a notary public.
“I was wrong,” he said. “The adult thing to do is to take responsibility.”
Mendros stressed there was no fraud or forgery involved.
He pleaded guilty shortly after noon to three of four counts in a complaint brought by the Maine Attorney General’s Office. He was fined $1,000 for one of the counts and $500 apiece for two others. One count was dismissed.
The charges were class E misdemeanors, each punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.
Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin said the dismissed charge involved fewer petitions and was the most defensible of the four counts because Mendros said he was distracted at the time. The charges allege false acknowledgment of oath stemming from misuse of his notary commission during a signature drive for approval of a Washington County casino. That referendum was rejected by voters in November.
Mendros was accused of not being present during the administration of oath to several petition gatherers.
Robbin said Monday that Mendros’ actions “show a cavalier attitude toward a process that requires he be more of a stickler for details.”
The fact that he didn’t follow the protocol, she said, is “problematic.” His plea sends a message to any notary and anyone involved in circulating statewide petitions for referendum that adherence to process is important.
“He should have known better,” Robbin said.
His legal woes have taught him to be more meticulous about his methods, he said. He doesn’t expect Monday’s pleas to affect his business as a referendum petition circulator.
“I talked to my clients. They don’t seem too broken up about it,” he said.
Mendros said he expects to have his notary commission suspended as a result of Monday’s pleas.
Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn said Monday her office would review records of the plea from the court before taking any action. Depending on what Maine law requires, she said a review board might be assembled or a recommendation could go straight to the secretary of state, who has the sole authority to take any formal action, Flynn said.
Mendros served two terms in the Maine House of Representatives as a Lewiston Republican. In the Legislature, he served on the Joint Standing Judiciary Committee. In 2002, he ran unsuccessfully for his party’s nomination in the GOP primary to represent the 2nd Congressional District.
He represents Ward 1 on the Lewiston City Council, but was defeated in his bid last month to seek a third term. He will leave office in January.