PORTLAND (AP) – Campaign fraud charges have been filed against four Green Independent Party members who were involved in the campaign for a Maine legislative candidate from Biddeford.

A York County grand jury indicted Philip Castora, 78, of Arundel, and Fred Dolgon, 75, of Old Orchard Beach, on felony forgery charges. Misdemeanor charges of trying to influence a voter were filed against two others, Ben Chipman, 29, and Wayne Whitten, 54, of Biddeford.

Chipman is legislative aide to Green party state Rep. John Eder of Portland.

The indictment stems from work the four did for Green party House candidate Dorothy Lafortune, which included delivering absentee ballots to elderly voters. It says Chipman and Whitten urged them to vote for Lafortune. Castora and Dolgon allegedly filled out the absentee ballots themselves.

Green party members said the indictments, handed up earlier this week, are politically motivated, coming less than a month before the election.

State law bars election workers from saying anything to influence voters when delivering absentee ballots. It also bars them from collecting money for delivering absentee ballots. Castora and Dolgon are charged with violating that law.

On Friday, after the charges were reported by the Portland Press Herald, Maine House Speaker Patrick Colwell said he was taking action to put Chipman on administrative leave.

Colwell, a Democrat, said his decision had nothing to do with politics. Both Republicans and Democrats have been accused of misconduct in the past.

“This is a legal issue and not one based on politics. I have a responsibility to protect the integrity of the institution,” Colwell said.

AP-ES-10-08-04 1502EDT



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