Dion says Legislature must vote to ask high court if Poliquin may still serve
February 27, 2012
AUGUSTA – State Rep. Mark Dion, D-Portland, plans to file a special legislative document that, if passed by the Maine House, would ask the Maine Supreme Court to advise lawmakers on whether State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin may continue to serve in office after violating the Maine Constitution.
The Maine Constitution prohibits the Treasurer from engaging in commerce, but the Treasurer has been acting as the sole proprietor of the Popham Beach Club and of the real estate development company Dirigo Holdings, LLC, which is developing and marketing a $17 million beachfront lot in Phippsburg. Dion requested an advisory opinion from Attorney General William Schneider in January asking if Poliquin’s business dealings violated the Constitution.
In a written opinion issued on Feb. 10, Schneider said the Treasurer must “disassociate” himself from his businesses and “should not appear before any governmental bodies on behalf of entities that he owns.”
“The opinion from the Attorney General makes it clear that the Treasurer should not have engaged in lobbying the Phippsburg planning board on behalf of the Popham Beach Club, or overseeing his multi-million dollar real estate developments,” said Dion. “The AG outlined remedies that direct the Treasurer on how to conduct himself in accordance with the Constitution but at the same time the AG 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 added, “If the Attorney General will not hold Mr. Poliquin accountable, the responsibility falls to the Legislature which dictates our duty to seek guidance from the state’s Supreme Court. We have evidence that a Constitutional Officer has violated the Constitution. You can’t break the law and simply walk away from it.”
Dion will file a “House Order Propounding Questions to the Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court,” which if passed, would request the Maine Supreme Court to give its opinion on whether Poliquin’s actions prohibit him from continuing to serve in office; if his actions constitute a misdemeanor in office under the Constitution; and if it is sufficient under the law for him to put his interests in the hands of third-party; and what action would be necessary under that law to remove the Treasurer.
According to the Maine Constitution, Article VI, Section 3:
“Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court shall be obliged to give their opinion upon important questions of law, and upon solemn occasions, when required by the Governor, Senate or House of Representatives.”
Dion will submit the official House Order to the Clerk of the House of Representatives by tomorrow morning. It could appear on the House Calendar as early as tomorrow, when the legislature reconvenes to consider its regular business. The order must appear on the Legislative calendar for one full day before it may be acted upon, according to the House rules. It requires support from a majority of the lawmakers in the House to pass.
The House Order requests the court to provide opinions on the following questions:
Question 1. Do any of the activities of the State Treasurer, identified by the Attorney General, violate the Constitutional restrictions prohibiting the Treasurer from engaging in a business of trade or commerce or as a broker or agent or factor for any merchant or trader? Has the Treasurer violated his oath “...to support the Constitution of the State of Maine?”
Question 2. If the answer to Question 1 is in the affirmative, does this violation place in jeopardy the validity of any actions taken by the Treasurer while in violation of the Constitutional restrictions?
Question 3. If the answer to question 1 is in the affirmative, having violated the Constitution, is it possible for the Treasurer to remain in office?
Question 4. Given that the Treasurer is prohibited from engaging in trade or commerce, would it be sufficient to place management of his business interests in the hands of a third party or would it be necessary for him to divest his interests entirely?
Question 5. Do the activities of the State Treasurer, identified by the Attorney General, with regard to the Treasurer’s involvement with the Popham Beach Club or Dirigo Holdings, LLC or the Treasurer’s failure to provide complete information regarding sources of income and activities to the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices constitute a misdemeanor in office permitting the House of Representatives to take action against the State Treasurer under the Maine Constitution, Article IX, Section 5 providing for the impeachment or removal by address to the Governor?
Question 6. Are there any other avenues available to the Legislature to investigate the activities of the Treasurer and to determine whether the Treasurer's actions violate the Constitution or any provisions of law?
Question 7. Does the incompleteness of the Treasurer's bond constitute grounds for removal under the Maine Revised Statutes, Title 5, Section 124. What action would be necessary under that law to remove the Treasurer?
Jodi Quintero [Dion] 287-1488, c. 841-6279