Republicans join Democrats seeking court opinion on Poliquin

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AUGUSTA — Republicans in the Maine House of Representatives will join Democrats in asking the Maine Supreme Judicial Court whether Bruce Poliquin can continue to serve as state treasurer, given that his business dealings appear to violate the state Constitution. 

Rep. Philip Curtis, R-Madison, has introduced a House order, known as a “solemn occasion,” which allows the Legislature to ask the court’s advice on an unsettled matter.

Curtis’ order follows a similar order requested earlier this week by Rep. Mark Dion, D-Portland, who has already sought and received an advisory opinion from state Attorney General William Schneider. It asks whether Poliquin’s ownership of Dirigo Holdings LLC, a real estate business that runs the Popham Woods Condominiums in Phippsburg, violates the constitutional provision prohibiting the treasurer from engaging in commerce.

Schneider last month wrote that Poliquin should dissociate himself from Dirigo Holdings LLC. Poliquin announced this week that he plans to follow the AG’s guidance.

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However, Dion and Democrats aren’t ready to dismiss the fact that Poliquin may have been violating the Constitution for more than a year.   

Dion, in a release issued Monday, said it was incumbent upon the Legislature to solve the matter. He said Schneider outlined remedies for Poliquin moving forward, but “failed to provide guidance on the state’s recourse for the violations that have already occurred.”

“It is also unclear if the treasurer can or will be able to ‘disassociate’ himself from his business interests, or what ‘disassociation’ actually entails,” Dion said.

Democrats say Poliquin’s involvement with Dirigo Holdings shows that he has violated the Maine Constitution, which prohibits the state treasurer from engaging in commerce while he or she is in office.

Schneider recently issued an advisory opinion saying Poliquin should take steps to insulate himself from Dirigo Holdings, such as establishing a blind trust.

Prior to the AG’s opinion, Poliquin told radio station WGAN 560 that he was too busy to be involved with Dirigo Holdings and that the company was effectively managed by a bookkeeper. However, the AG report noted that Poliquin is “the sole member of and registered agent for Dirigo Holdings LLC.” The report also noted that Poliquin is the sole signatory for the company checkbook.

Poliquin has acknowledged that his appearance last year before the Phippsburg Board of Selectmen advocating for the Beach Club was a mistake.

Dion on Wednesday introduced his order. It’s expected to be taken up by the House on Thursday. 

In a related matter, the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices voted 4-1 on Wednesday, saying that Poliquin’s 2010 income disclosure was “substantially compliant” with state reporting laws.

Commission Chairman Walter McKee was the dissenting vote. He argued that Poliquin’s omission of Dirigo Holdings from his income disclosure was significant.

Poliquin had argued that he didn’t include Dirigo Holdings because the business ran at a loss in 2010.

The commission vote was in response to an ethics complaint filed by the Maine Democratic Party.  

smistler@sunjournal.com

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