AUGUSTA (AP) – After ignoring the advice of state lawyers, the Maine Harness Racing Commission has been forced to hire outside counsel.

The attorney general’s office refused Thursday to represent the commission in two racino-related court cases.

Two Indian tribes and the anti-gambling group Casinos No! are asking a state court to review the commission’s decision granting the owner of Bangor Historic Track a conditional racing license.

The Penobscot Nation and the Passamaquoddy Tribe also are asking the Penobscot County Superior Court to reverse a commission decision that denied them legal standing in the licensing process.

The staff of the attorney general’s office had advised the commission to grant the tribes’ petition to intervene in the proceedings. It also advised the commission to hold a public hearing prior to issuing either a conditional or full license to Penn National Gaming.

However, the commission Tuesday awarded Penn National a conditional license without scheduling a hearing, and denied the tribes intervenor status. It denied Casinos No! and the Christian Civic League legal standing in proceedings as advised in the memo.

In a letter to commission Chairman George McHale, Attorney General Steven Rowe said “it would not be appropriate for this office to defend actions taken by the Commission that were contrary to our advice.”

Rowe also said the office wanted to retain its autonomy in case constitutional issues arise around the racino law adopted by voters.

AP-ES-02-20-04 0217EST

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