The Maine Ethics Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to take no further action in an investigation into whether Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Allagash) submitted a false address to the Commission when running for reelection in 2020.
The Commission also clarified that other allegations against Jackson related to potential mortgage and insurance fraud, as well as his travel reimbursements, are not under their investigative jurisdiction.
State Rep. John Andrews (R-Paris) requested in September that the Commission investigate the Senate President after reporting from the Maine Wire showed that in September 2019 he purchased a second home in Augusta using a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insured loan.
As part of the loan application, Jackson and his partner signed a mortgage document stating that they would make the Augusta property their “principal residence” for at least one year.
The U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD) defines “principal residence” as “a property that will be occupied by the borrower for the majority of the calendar year.”
When submitting documentation in 2020 to the Maine Ethics Commission concerning his residency to run for reelection in Senate District 1, however, he listed his residence as Allagash.
Jackson has since stated that he “never really read” the mortgage document that he signed when purchasing the Augusta property.
The Commission’s decision not to investigate Jackson aligns with the 110-page memo released last week from Ethics Commission’s Executive Director Jonathan Wayne, who recommended based on advisory opinions from the Office of the Maine Attorney General that there not be any further investigation into the matter.
The first to speak before the Commission Wednesday was Rep. Andrews, who briefed the Commission on the contents of his complaint against Jackson.
“As a member of the Judiciary and Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, I filed the complaint that you are hearing today regarding Troy Jackson’s federal declaration that he lives in Augusta while representing the state’s northernmost Senate district,” Andrews said.
“This is an incongruence that needs to be looked at in depth, and I am hopeful that you will approach today with an open mind, a hunger for justice, and an objectivity towards the name the complaint is against,” he said.
Andrews referenced attempts from Maine’s mainstream media outlets to dismiss the complaint, as well as that the Ethics Commission was meeting that day in the Preti Flaherty Building in Augusta — the namesake of Portland law firm and lobbying giant Preti, Flaherty Beliveau & Pachios LLP, the same law firm that has represented Jackson in his lawsuit against the elderly couple that sold him the Augusta home in 2019.
The Republican State Rep. also asked the Commission to investigate Jackson’s exorbitant taxpayer-funded travel reimbursements, that totaled more than $160,000 from 2019 to 2023 — despite the Senate President maintaining a residence just miles away from the State House in Augusta during that time.
“People have lost faith in their government and institutions,” Andrews said. “The Ethics Commission, the people’s watchdogs, has an opportunity today to restore a little bit of that faith by doing their due diligence — their due investigative diligence — and not writing off this complaint as partisan politics.”
If the Commission decided not to investigate Jackson regarding the potential FHA loan violations not under their purview, Andrews asked that they contact U.S. Attorney for the District of Maine Darcie McElwee’s Office and “ask them to investigate the things that you cannot.”
Ethics Commission Chairman William Schneider assured Andrews that the Commission would be “thorough” and “objective.”
“That’s the nature of this board, and we take our job very seriously,” Schneider said.
Senate President Troy Jackson Speaks Before the Ethics Commission
Following Rep. Andrews’ presentation to the Commission on his complaint, President Jackson came forward alongside a legal advisor, former Maine Supreme Judicial Court Justice Donald Alexander, to present his side of the story.
Jackson told the Commission that he was thankful for the Commission taking up the matter, but also that he was “sorry that you had to deal with it.”
“I’m a lifelong resident of Aroostook County,” Jackson explained to the Commission. “This is going to be my 20th year in the Legislature. Some of you I’ve served with in some role, and I take this job very seriously.”
“And the reason why I got into politics, not being at all political, actually quite naive in the beginning – maybe still now – is because I thought my area needed representation down here in Augusta, and I’ve really strived to do that,” he said.
The Allagash Democrat told the Commission that the reason he bought the Augusta home was to make sure he could fulfill his duties as a legislator and President of the Senate.
“People deserve to be represented, and if you’re not gonna be here, if you’re not gonna show up, then I don’t think you should be in this job,” he said.
“The place in question, I’m really like, extremely sorry that I ever purchased it because of all the trouble that we had with it,” he added.
“But that was never, you know, where I considered my residence,” he continued, despite signing a federal mortgage document stating the Augusta home would be his principal residence.
Jackson dismissed the allegation that he had put the blame on the his mortgage broker for signing the document he “never really read,” saying that the conversation he had with the broker was regarding where he spends the majority of his time, which would be Augusta.
According to Jackson, he would return to Allagash from his Augusta home on the weekends during the legislative session, adding that he was “concerned how this is gonna play out for rural legislators.”
“Are we not supposed to be down here doing our job, representing our area?” He asked.
Further dismissing the allegations, Jackson characterized them as “Washington D.C.-type of attacks.”
“I do think people lose faith in their government, but I think they lose faith in their government because of complaints like this that, in the end, I don’t believe have any basis,” he said.
Donald Alexander, acting as Jackson’s legal advisor during Wednesday’s meeting, told the Commission that Jackson would potentially have been lying on the mortgage document if he had not said the Augusta home would be his principal residence, as that is where he spent the majority of his time in 2020 and 2021.
Following a discussion from the Ethics Commission, in which they clarified that their jurisdiction allows only for an investigation into whether or not Jackson filed false information to Commission in 2020, not any other potential mortgage or insurance fraud crimes or the issue of his travel reimbursements, the Commission voted unanimously not to pursue any further investigation into the Senate President.
Speaking to reporters after the vote, Jackson told reporters that “it’s not good for the Legislature when we take these partisan shots at each other.”
“The Maine Wire and their cabal of legislators are going to keep doing this,” he said.
In February, U.S. Attorney for the District of Maine Darcie McElwee pursued charges against Merton Weed Jr., a 51-year-old man from Norway, Maine, who allegedly filed multiple fraudulent applications to gain close to $250,000 from the pandemic-era Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
Weed was also accused of having lied on an FHA loan application, having allegedly listed false employment and income information on his application — the same loan application Jackson signed when purchasing his Augusta property.
Under Title 18, Section 1010 of the U.S. Criminal Code, it is a criminal offense “to make a willful false statement or misrepresentation to any Department or Agency of the United States as to any matter within its jurisdiction,” which includes the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Making such a willful false statement can result in a $5,000 fine or a maximum prison sentence of two years, or both.
Following a plea deal reached Monday, the FHA loan fraud charge against Weed was dropped, and he pled guilty to the remaining four counts of wire fraud related to his PPP applications.