State Sen. David Trahan announced this week that he was going to do the right thing, but he was not going to do it right away.

This amounts to something less than the right thing, and the Waldoboro Republican should rethink his decision.

At issue is whether Trahan could keep representing the people of Lincoln County after he takes over as executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, one of the state’s most influential advocacy agencies. Trahan did some research and asked the Maine Ethics Commission if he could hold both jobs; they advised him not to try.

He announced Wednesday that he would step down from the Legislature, but not until the end of the year, assuming that the SAM board of directors approves his appointment in October. Recognizing the obvious conflict of interest, Trahan said he would resign from the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee as soon as he was hired, but would continue to hold onto his Senate seat to work on tax issues.

Trahan has it half right: If it’s a good idea to quit in December, it’s a bad idea to stick around in October and November.

The sportsmen of Maine, who live in all 16 counties, don’t always have the same interests as the people of Trahan’s Senate district, and those people shouldn’t have to wonder whose interest their senator is representing, even if it’s only for a couple of months.

Trahan says he wants to stay to finish work on tax policy changes he initiated this year. But as able a lawmaker as Trahan may be, he is not indispensable and other able legislators will be able to complete any work he has started. Senate leadership will no doubt be able to find someone who can take his place on the Taxation Committee.

What Trahan’s delayed departure will do is create an appearance of a conflict of interest, which is bad for public confidence in elected representatives. The fact that other legislators have been able to hold similar dual roles in the past doesn’t make this right. There is no lobbying group as powerful as SAM and this can’t go unnoticed.

Trahan would do well to quit the Senate as soon as he starts drawing his paycheck from SAM and set a clear standard for all future lawmakers to follow when they wonder how to manage a conflict of interest. Hanging around for a few more months just muddies waters that were too muddy to begin with.

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