AUGUSTA — A York County lawmaker faces an investigation by the state attorney general and possible criminal charges for allegedly misusing state campaign funds, submitting false documents to investigators and other violations, following a vote by the state ethics commission Wednesday.

Rep. David R. Burns, R-Alfred, was found by the commission to have committed seven violations of the state law that governs the use of Maine Clean Election Act money. Among the violations are transferring public campaign money into his personal bank account, using the money on personal expenses and submitting false documents to investigators.

Ethics commission chairman Walter McKee said he found it mind boggling that Burns submitted false documents to investigators.

“I certainly have never seen anything at this level of severity and number of counts,” he said. “I think we have to send a very clear message here.”

The violations are civil, and come with fines, but the commission did not assess fines Wednesday. Instead, the panel preferred to wait until the outcome of the attorney general investigation.

The commission did order Burns to reimburse the state $2,285 for money spent on items that were questioned or expenses that were claimed, but were not documented. Those include meals at restaurants, a reported payment of more than $600 for yard signs that were not purchased and reporting the purchase of newspaper advertising that never occurred.

Burns did not attend the hearing in Augusta. His attorney, William Logan, said little in testimony before the ethics panel, but said after the proceeding that he and Burns will continue to cooperate with investigators.

“We certainly respect the work the ethics commission has done,” he said. “We’ve cooperated with the investigation and we will continue to cooperate with the AG’s office.”

Logan said he did not feel the investigation would interfere with Burns’ ability to serve in the Legislature and that he did not know if Burns would run for re-election next year.

“He certainly hasn’t been charged with any criminal conduct,” he said.

When asked why Burns would transfer public campaign funds into his personal account, Logan said he wasn’t going to comment on the specifics of the case because it has been referred to the AG’s office.

Burns was a first time House candidate in 2010, running for a district in southern Maine that covers Alfred, Limerick, Newfield and Shapleigh. He was authorized to spend $9,066 in public money for campaign expenses.

Ethics Commission Executive Director Jonathan Wayne said there have been few instances of abuse of the system in the past four election cycles. Four candidates have been referred to the attorney general for investigation.

The case most similar to the Burns investigation involved Rep. William Walcott, D-Lewiston, who resigned from the Legislature in August 2007 during an investigation into his use of public campaign money. He later pleaded guilty to several misdemeanors, most of them theft, that came from improper use of public funds during his 2004 and 2006 legislative races.

Walcott used his campaign money for videos, pizza, restaurants and other non-campaign related items. He was sentenced to serve six months in jail.

Burns allegedly used state money to pay a $118.95 bill at a Korean restaurant, charged the state for gas he purchased 24 days after the election and reported campaign expenditures to state officials that never occurred.

Ethics officials also allege that Burns faked a letter that was supposed to prove that he paid $475 for campaign signs.

In addition, he is accused of moving money from his campaign account to his personal account, making it difficult for ethics investigators to determine how the money was spent. As a result, ethics officials allege that Burns spent more than $2,500 on things that were not related to his campaign.

Susan Cover — 620-7015

[email protected]

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