AUGUSTA — Rep. David R. Burns, R-Alfred, resigned his seat in the Maine House of Representatives on Tuesday as the attorney general’s office prepared to file criminal charges alleging misuse of clean elections funds.

“I believe this is the appropriate step for him to take, as we Republicans insist our members maintain the highest ethical standards possible,” House Speaker Robert Nutting, R-Oakland, said in a prepared statement announcing Burns’ resignation.

Nutting said the attorney general’s office had concluded its investigation of Burns’ use of public campaign funds. A spokeswoman for Attorney General William Schneider said only that formal charges are expected next week.

Burns did not respond to an interview request Tuesday and has declined to answer questions about the allegations, citing the advice of his attorney. His lawyer could not be reached.

The attorney general’s office began investigating in December after the state ethics commission found Burns violated multiple campaign finance laws while running for state representative.

The violations include transferring public campaign money into his personal bank account, using the money for personal expenses and giving false documents to investigators.

Earlier in January, Burns resigned from his seat on the Alfred Board of Selectmen.

Democrats have been calling for his resignation from the Legislature for weeks, and House Democratic Leader Emily Cain issued a statement early Tuesday saying he should step down or be put before the Legislature’s ethics panel.

“The Clean Elections system is not an ATM for lawmakers and it shouldn’t be treated that way,” said Cain. “The system has been effective in keeping special interests out of elections and any abuse of it must be addressed swiftly.”

Nutting said he did not ask Burns to resign earlier because he wanted to wait until the attorney general’s investigation was over before passing judgment on the allegations. “I felt it was more appropriate to proceed with the presumption of innocence … while the investigation was ongoing,” Nutting said Tuesday.

Burns would not be the first lawmaker charged with a crime involving clean election funding.

The case most similar to the Burns investigation involved Rep. William Walcott, D-Lewiston.

Walcott resigned 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.

John Richardson — 620-7016

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