Helen Poulin, an Androscoggin County Commissioner, moved to Auburn in August.

She represents Lewiston. Elected officials live in their district and usually resign if they move.

She wouldn’t. Her reading of statute, announced Sept. 3, is that county commissioners must only live in the county, not necessarily their district, even though Maine law says, “Members of each board of commissioners must be residents of the commissioner district which they represent…”

Now Poulin has sworn, in an affidavit, that her move was always temporary, and she intended to move back to Lewiston the whole time. Her four-bedroom, three-bath home in Auburn is listed for sale at $425,000.

End of story. So, one might ask, what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that Poulin has missed the point from the start. It’s not about where she lives, it never was.

It was about an elected official doing the right thing, without being asked.

Where she sleeps at night makes no difference: Lewiston, Auburn, New Hampshire, New South Wales, Upper Volta, outer space. It’s a free galaxy, country, state, county or city – wherever she wants to live.

But she left her district and then, we think, twisted the law to defend her decision. When the governor pressed her for an address, instead of answering “100 Vickery Road in Auburn,” Poulin hired a lawyer to tell the governor he overstepped his bounds with the question.

And now, she’s proffered a “the-move-was-only-temporary” rationale that sounds more convenient than honest. If this were the case, she should have said so long ago, and saved everybody the tussle.

This is what she’s missed.

There was no need for turmoil, strife or icy letters back and forth between lawyers. The choice was easy. All she needed to do was either resign or state that the move was temporary, that she would be returning to Lewiston, to her constituency, as soon as possible.

She did neither. That is the big deal.

County government here has had a public-accountability issue, and Poulin has done nothing to change that. In fact, through her stonewalling on this issue of residency, she’s made it worse.

But now that Poulin has proven that her position and living where she wants is critical to her, she’s free to have both. At least Lewiston voters know what’s most important to their county commissioner.

Not, it seems, what’s most important to them.


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