In response to a complaint State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin had failed to report several financial details on a state disclosure form, the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices voted four to one that Poliquin’s 2010 income disclosure
had been substantially in compliance but incomplete, and that his amended filing brought him into compliance.
State Democratic Party Executive Director Mary Erin Casale filed the complaint on January 18 claiming that Poliquin had failed to comply with statutory reporting requirements. It was Casale’s contention that Poliquin had not fully disclosed personal business dealings and holdings, and associated income, on the statement of sources of income, or financial disclosure forms, he was required to complete for the state.
The financial disclosure is based on a regulation regarding financial reporting requirements of executive employees employed by the State Executive Branch, either appointed by the governor and confirmed by the legislature, or who serve in a major policy-influencing position. The requirement applies to the Governor, the constitutional offices, the State Auditor, and certain managers of executive branch and independent agencies of state government.
The commission acknowledged some confusion in the financial disclosure requirements, including whether the term income “should be interpreted to mean gross income (before any expenses or costs are deducted) or net income (after expenses are deducted.” In a further acknowledgement in the summary, Executive Director Jonathan Wayne wrote, “In certain circumstances, this interpretation could determine whether an official was required to disclose a business or investment (such as the Popham Beach Club [owned by Poliquin] which received gross income over $1,000 but no net income.”
Wayne wrote, “We are considering whether to suggest a clarification of this issue when the Joint Standing Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs considers personal financial disclosure later this month…”
Poliquin had failed to disclose income from a property he owns called the Popham Beach Club, explaining in a letter to the commission “the income of $9,750 was exceeded by expenses.”
He had overlooked a non-cash income (of the nature of a tax depreciation) from Marshall Mall Associates. In his explanation to the commission, he explained it as “a real estate investment dating back some 25 years,” which he explained, he “did not recall at the time.”
And he had neglected to include income his college age son had received from a 10-week summer internship.
According to the commission report, “The staff believes that Mr. Poliquin was not required to report Dirigo Holdings, LLC as a source of income for 2010. The company is a separate legal entity from the Treasurer, which he states did not provide him with any income in 2010.” The report did note, however, that after conferring with the Commission’s Counsel, they were “inclined to advise” that Poliquin had been required to disclose his position in the limited liability company.
Commissioner Michael Healey noted that Poliquin had been otherwise open regarding Dirigo Holdings, which was publicly listed.
Attorney Katherine Knox, representing the Democratic Party, argued, “In this disclosure, the obligation is on the person filing the report to seek guidance.”
Representing Poliquin, Attorney David Barry noted that “none of (Poliquin’s) sources of income provided any conflict of interest for him.” Barry said Poliquin had planned on attending the hearing but had unexpectedly been called out of state for a family medical situation.
An initial vote, proposed by Chairperson Walter McKee, finding Poliquin in non-compliance with his initial filing but in compliance with the amended filing, failed 3 to 2. McKee argued the issue of Dirigo holdings as “pretty significant.”
“Let me tell you my problem with the language,” said Healey, “there are a lot of accusations…we owe it to the process to specify what he didn’t do…the LLC holding…was a matter of public record.” Healey said there had been no attempt to hide the business.
The final motion was proposed by Commissioner Andre Duchette and seconded by Jane Amero, with yea votes from Margaret Matheson and Healey. McKee cast the dissenting vote.