- Maine Senate President Troy Jackson, a Democrat, agreed in a federally insured mortgage contract to make an Augusta house his primary residence in Sept. 2019
- After moving into the house, Jackson filed a lawsuit against the sellers alleging that they concealed damage to the house, including carpenter ant damage
- Paul and Jane Godbout, 65, say they’ve spent more than $30,000 trying to defend themselves from Jackson’s lawsuit
- Despite owning the Augusta home and agreeing to live there, Jackson received tens of thousands of dollars in reimbursements through the State Legislature for travel between Augusta and Allagash — more than any other lawmaker
- Although he had agreed to live in Augusta, Jackson told the Maine Ethics Commission several times that he lived in his Aroostook County State Senate district
- Mortgage records indicate Jackson sold the house in 2021 for more than $100,000 what he paid for it
Maine Senate President Troy D. Jackson (D-Aroostook) has been embroiled in a bitter legal dispute with a Windsor couple ever since he moved into an Augusta house he purchased from them in Sept. 2019.
The longtime Maine lawmaker and his girlfriend, Lana M. Pelletier, are suing Paul R. and Jane R. Godbout, 65, alleging that the couple committed fraud by concealing defects with the North Belfast Ave. house during the sale.
“Lana and Troy were damaged as a result of the Defendants’ material misrepresentations and other fraudulent acts including their efforts to lie about and conceal the carpenter ant infestation, their misrepresentations about mold issues and efforts to conceal the same, their efforts to conceal the odor caused by the mold contamination, and their misrepresentations and omissions concerning past fire damage in the home,” Jackson’s Preti Flaherty attorney stated in the most recent version of the couple’s complaint.
The Godbouts have vigorously denied the allegations.
In a countersuit, the couple alleged that Jackson and Pelletier are trying to extract money from them after a lawful and orderly real estate transaction.
The Godbouts claimed in 2022 that defending themselves from Jackson’s lawsuit had cost them nearly $30,000 in legal fees, inflicted emotional suffering on them, and worsened Paul Godbout’s diabetes.
Beyond the real estate dispute, the court records and mortgage documents raise the question of whether Jackson, who has served as Senate President throughout his squabble with the Godbouts, actually lives in the Aroostook County district he represents.
Maine’s Constitution requires members of the State Legislature to reside within their districts.
However, in the mortgage agreement Jackson signed for the Augusta house in 2019, the top Democrat lawmaker swore it would become his primary residence for at least a year.
Information in the court documents also conflicts with several statements to which Jackson has signed his name elsewhere, including campaign filings with the Maine Ethics Commission, reimbursement requests submitted to the Maine Legislature, and an insurance claim Jackson filed for damages to the house.
Jackson did not respond to an email requesting comment for this story.
Jackson Moves to Augusta and Files a Lawsuit
Jackson and Pelletier purchased the house in Augusta in September of 2019. According to mortgage documents available with the Kennebec County Registry of Deeds, they signed an agreement for a federally insured mortgage to get the 3-bedroom house, with Jackson initialing each page of that agreement.
Shortly after moving in, Jackson and Pelletier sent two demand letters to the Godbouts.
They demanded the reversal of the home sale and a refund, claiming that the Godbouts had conspired to conceal systemic carpenter ant damage, along with other alleged defects that decreased the value of the house.
Those letters failed to achieve the desired effects, Jackson and Pelletier wrote up a draft complaint and sent it to the Godbouts, threatening to file the suit if the couple didn’t give in to their demands.
Jackson’s attorney filed the complaint in Kennebec County Superior Court on June 5, 2020.
The case remains ongoing, as the Godbouts have refused to settle.
Joining the Godbouts as defendants in the original complaint was Eric Swails, 40, a real estate agent with Brookewood Realty. The court later dismissed Swails and Brookewood Realty from the case.
The Godbouts’ daughter, Tami Jones, who was living in the house with her child prior to the sale, was added to the suit after the initial complaint. According to the Godbouts, they purchased the home for Jones following a divorce.
“My husband and I purchased the property for our daughter, Tami Jones, who was going through a divorce and caring for her son, our grandson, age three at the time, who had completed chemotherapy and was being monitored for optic glioma,” Jane Godbout wrote in a sworn affidavit submitted to the court.
Jones has protested her addition to the lawsuit, arguing that she was a tenant of the property who made regularly rent payments.
“I have no obligation to Troy Jackson or Lana Pelletier, yet they added me to their lawsuit,” Jones wrote in an affidavit.
“Troy Jackson and Lana Pelletier brought their false claims and baseless lawsuit to bully, harass and intimidate me into giving them money to which they are not entitled,” she wrote.
Jones also said that her son frequently played throughout the home, so if she’d been aware of any mold contamination or unhealthy odors, she would have promptly fixed them.
Jackson and Pelletier claim that the Godbouts and Jones lied about several problems with the house, not just the carpenter ants. They say they discovered past fire damage, a mold infestation, and “plumbing issues that cause a severe and unhealthy odor throughout the home”.
The following images from Redfin depict Jackson and Pelletier’s Augusta home.
In their July 30, 2021 answer to the complaint, the Godbouts denied almost all of the allegations and factual assertions in Jackson’s complaint.
They also filed their own counterclaim against Jackson.
That counterclaim was dismissed under Maine’s anti-SLAPP law (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation), a law intended to protect journalists and citizen activists from frivolous lawsuits.
In support of the counterclaim, Jane Godbout claimed that the two “threatening” letters from Jackson had an adverse impact on her husband’s diabetes and heart disease, causing him to increase doses of multiple prescription medications.
The court records also indicate that the Godbouts, through Swails, paid for AmeriSpec Inspection Services to conduct an inspection of the house prior to the sale for Jackson and Pelletier.
The AmeriSpec inspection report told Jackson and Pelletier that there was evidence of carpenter ants and recommended that they hire a licensed pest inspector.
The couple never hired the pest specialist and purchased the home anyways. They admitted to having received the inspection report that informed them about carpenter ant damage.
Although Jackson and Pelletier claim that information about the fire damage was illegally withheld from them, the Godbouts claim a copy of the disclosure they submitted to the court shows that it was, in fact, disclosed to them.
Although Jackson and Pelletier claim that the stove was turned off when they visited the house in order to conceal an odor problem, the Godbouts deny manipulating the furnace and claim in a sworn affidavit that they had the furnace inspected on August 26, 2019 at Jackson and Pelletier’s request.
“The inspection showed that the furnace was old, but in sound condition,” Godbout said in the affidavit.
Jones paid for that inspection.
The dismissed counterclaim alleges that Jackson and Pelletier knew that the allegations they made about the Godbouts were false and that they made false claims “for the purposes of inducing [the Godbouts] to pay them significant sums of money, beyond recission of the sale.”
In other words, the Godbouts argue that they are the victims of a shakedown operation, one that remains ongoing.
Although Jackson and Pelletier claim to have incurred significant legal fees since the ordeal began, documents filed with the court show the couple’s attorney is working on a contingency fee basis, which means he’ll only get paid if the case is settled.
Documents obtained by the Godbouts’ attorney through discovery also indicate that Jackson and Pelletier filed an insurance claim related to damages to the house.
Information in that claim contradicts claims they made in the original lawsuit against the Godbouts.
“Troy Jackson and Lana Pelletier claimed to their insurance company that their date of loss for the damage to the Property was January 19, 2021,” the counterclaim states. “For the purposes of this lawsuit, Troy Jackson and Lana Pelletier claimed that the Property was damaged before and at the time of sale, September 19, 2019.”
The bitter litigation has continued even despite Jackson and Pelletier’s decision to sell the house in December of 2021 to Fatimah and Qusay al Saleem of Augusta.
According to Redfin.com and Kennebec County Registry of Deeds records, Jackson sold the house for $323,000 and it is now worth an estimated $394,351.
Jackson and Pelletier bought the home for $216,000, with the Godbouts covering $6,000 in closing costs.
Contacted by phone, neither the Godbouts nor their attorney, Jed Davis, wanted to speak about the case.
Where Does Troy Jackson Live?
Maine’s Constitution stipulates that members of the State Legislature must reside within their districts when they run for office and while they serve.
In Jackson’s complaint against the Godbouts, his attorney said that he discovered damages to the house “after moving in.”
That suggests Jackson’s primary residence as of October 2019 was in Augusta.
Augusta is not in Jackson’s State Senate District, which includes mostly western and northern Aroostook County.
Since he claimed to have moved to Augusta in 2019, Jackson has continued to tell the Maine Ethics Commission that he lives in Allagash, including in multiple financial disclosures and countless campaign finance reports.
Jackson also stated that he lived in Allagash when he submitted paperwork that allowed him to collect more than $65,000 in taxpayer funding to back his 2020 re-election campaign.
He signed off several times on the following statement: “I, Troy Jackson, certify that I have examined this statement and to the best of my knowledge it is true, correct, and complete.”
Those attestations don’t just conflict with statements Jackson made in his lawsuit against the Godbouts.
They also conflict with the mortgage agreement Jackson signed.
Mortgage records for the home purchase stored with the Kennebec County Registry of Deeds show that Jackson used a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan to purchase the house.
FHA loans are federally insured mortgages designed to help low- to middle-income people afford homeownership, and they typically are only available for primary residences.
The loan agreement states the following: “I will occupy the Property and use the Property as my principal residence within 60 days after I sign this Security Instrument. I will continue to occupy the Property and to use the Property as my principal residence for at least one year.”
Jackson’s signature appears on the mortgage agreement and his initials appear on the page concerning FHA occupancy rules.
That means Jackson swore that he would make the Augusta house his primary residence before the end of the 2019 and maintain it as his primary residence until roughly the end of 2020.
If Jackson honored the terms of the mortgage contract and made the Augusta house his primary residence, then he was in violation of Maine’s constitutional requirement that state lawmakers reside within their districts. He also would have knowingly submitted false records to the Maine Ethics Commission.
If, however, he maintained the Allagash home as his primary residence, as he claimed to the Maine Ethics Commission, then the information he supplied to his mortgage company to obtain the FHA-insured loan was inaccurate.
Whether Jackson’s primary residence was in Allagash or Augusta also has tax implications for the Democrat.
If he declared the Augusta home as his primary residence for tax purposes, then he would have paid a lower capital gains rate on the roughly $117,000 profit he enjoyed when his home appreciated in value from late 2019 to the end of 2021.
But, if he maintained the Allagash property as his primary domicile for tax purposes, then his capital gains tax bill on the Augusta house would have been far larger.
Only Jackson, the Maine Revenue Service, and the Internal Revenue Service can say for sure how the taxes were handled on the sale to the al Saleems.
According to publicly available records, Jackson and Pelletier currently reside on Parkwood Drive — still in Augusta, although they continue to own the Allagash house, out of which Jackson is currently running Jackson Associates, a logging business.
Pelletier is a full time employee with the Department of Health and Human Services, which is headquartered in Augusta.
Troy Jackson is the GOAT of Reimbursements
The discrepancy in Jackson’s claimed residency also raises questions about the enormous financial reimbursements he has received through the State Legislature for travel between Allagash and Augusta.
Although Jackson swore in the Sept. 2019 mortgage agreement that the Augusta house would become his primary residence during most of 2020, Jackson received more reimbursement for travel expenses that year than any other Maine state lawmaker.
Under the rules of the State Legislature, lawmakers are allowed to request reimbursement for travel to and from the State House, as well as some lodging and meals. Lawmakers provide legislative staff with their total commute distance, and the reimbursements are calculated accordingly.
Despite claiming to live in Augusta for most of 2020 and continuing to own the Augusta home until December 2021, Jackson nonetheless received, $25,346.78 and $25,870.17 worth of reimbursement from the State Legislature in those years, according to state financial records.
Jackson’s reimbursement total was higher than any other state lawmaker in both years.
The next closest in 2020 was then-Rep. Trey Stewart (R-Presque Isle).
He booked $11,956.19 in reimbursements.
The next closest in 2021 was Rep. John Martin (D-Eagle Lake) at $15,301.
Among Jackson’s total reimbursements in 2020 were $694.96 for a cell phone bill, $53.25 for laundry service, $140.00 for a “miscellaneous expense”, $9,837.08 for “auto mileage”, $4,028 for hotels, $3,061.08 for “mileage in lieu of housing”.
In 2021, taxpayers picked up the tab for $6,039.60 for “auto mileage” and $6,918.12 for “mileage in lieu of housing.” Jackson was also reimbursed that year for $1,906.45 for “hotel room & lodging”.
The North Belfast Avenue house in Augusta is a 2.1 mile drive from the State House — about a 20 minute bike ride, according to Google.
Under legislative rules, that would make him eligible for nearly $2 per day in travel expense reimbursement for each day he performed his official duties.
In 2022, Jackson was once again the most reimbursed member of the State Legislature.
That year, he was able to boost his reimbursement numbers to a grand total of $31,238.22, per state records.
That included $9,621.45 for in-state auto mileage, $5,231.30 for mileage in lieu of housing, and $4,289.72 for hotel rooms and lodging.
Jackson has reported streams of income other than his legislative work and mileage reimbursements.
In June of 2021, Jackson registered a business, Jackson Associates, at his Allagash address, according to Maine Secretary of State records.
But Maine’s income disclosures for lawmakers, unlike federal disclosures for politicians, don’t require officials to disclose asset values or income amounts.
In addition to his income as a State Senator, Jackson’s most recent financial disclosures show that he was employed by the Roslindale, Mass.-based International Union of Painters and Allied Trades.
In his February disclosure, Jackson listed a second employer, a Brewer-based 501(c)4 nonprofit called Food and Medicine.
Unlike 501(c)3 nonprofits, donations to which are tax deductible, donations to a 501(c)4 are not tax deductible; they are, however, also entirely anonymous.
What happens when an elected official is in violation of the Maine Constitution’s residency requirement?
The residency requirement in Maine’s Constitution is enforced by each house of the Legislature.
The primary mechanism to enforce the requirement would be expulsion, and that would require two-thirds of the State Senate to vote in favor.
The last time the residency requirement for elected officials became a source of political contention was 2016.
Former Amherst Republican Rep. Larry Lockman called on the House Ethics Committee to review the election of George Hogan, an Old Orchard Beach Democrat, based on evidence that Hogan actually lived in Saco.
The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly against Lockman’s requested review.
In 2007, four-term Republican State Rep. Philip Cressey, Jr., of Cornish, had taken a job as an interim pastor at a Baptist church in Massachusetts and was living there several days a week with his family.
Democratic House Speaker Glenn Cummings called on Cressey to resign.
Cressey initially refused to resign, but eventually he called it quits in September of 2007 after then-Republican Minority Leader Josh Tardy said Cressey should make an exit.
Jackson, in addition to serving as the Senate President since 2018, is a Democratic National Committee member who has twice endorsed Vermont Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaigns.
Due to Maine’s term limits, Jackson cannot seek another term in the State Senate.
However, he remains a powerful figure in the Maine Democratic Party.
There have been whispers about him one day running for governor, and the left-wing Twitterati have openly urged him to run for U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ seat should she step down.
The Kennebec County Superior Court initially only supplied a few limited documents in response to the Maine Wire’s request for court records. Less than an hour after the story was published, the Court supplied additional records. This story will be updated.