Maine State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin usually plays a supporting role when he joins Gov. Paul LePage at town hall meetings around the state.

But last Thursday in Madison, he was under the spotlight, and it was LePage providing the support.

A woman in the audience asked Poliquin — who was seated next to LePage — if he would publicly release the land management plan prepared in 2004 when he received a commercial forestry tax break on his coastal property in Georgetown.

Poliquin has been accused of using the Tree Growth Program as a tax shelter because zoning and deed restrictions limit logging on the high-priced parcel. His 10-year harvesting plan, which was prepared by a licensed forester and approved by town officials, is confidential.

Poliquin responded by calling the accusations politically motivated because of his criticism of Democrats and his efforts to improve fiscal management in state government. There may be more than a little truth to that, but it wasn’t what the questioner wanted to know.

As someone in the audience shouted, “answer the question.”

LePage stepped in. Officials in Georgetown aren’t complaining — at least not to him, LePage said. And if anything were amiss, the governor suggested, he would deal with it.

“There have been a few instances when people have stepped over the line in my administration, and they’re gone in less than 24 hours.”

There was no doubt even before Thursday’s meeting that Poliquin is LePage’s political wing man.

Technically, however, he isn’t part of the LePage administration.

Maine’s treasurer is an independent officer elected by the Legislature.

Stuck on the hot seat

Poliquin won’t escape Democratic accusations this week, either. The state ethics commission Wednesday will consider a financial disclosure complaint filed against Poliquin by the Maine Democratic Party.

The complaint accuses Poliquin of failing to disclose all of his financial ties on a form he turned in shortly after taking over as treasurer.

Ethics commission staff are recommending that the five-member ethics panel find that Poliquin filed an incomplete form. But it recommends against any fine because Poliquin voluntarily amended the form to disclose additional information.

And today, meanwhile, Rep. Mark Dion, D-Portland, is expected to call for Poliquin to be held accountable for what Dion believes is a violation of the Maine Constitution.

Poliquin spoke to local town officials last year about his plans to develop the Popham Beach Club, something he now acknowledges he should not have done.

In response to Dion’s request, Attorney General William Schneider said Poliquin should distance himself from his private business holdings as long as he continues to serve as state treasurer.

Scott files for Senate run

One of the more colorful candidates in the 2010 gubernatorial campaign has filed to run for the state Senate in November.

Kevin Scott of Andover, an independent who finished fifth in the five-way governor’s race with about 1 percent of the vote, is challenging Sen. John Patrick, D-Rumford, for the Senate District 14 seat.

So far, no Republican has filed, but the deadline isn’t until March 15.

During the 2010 campaign, Scott pushed an agenda that included putting more locally grown food in schools. He also proposed a voluntary 32-hour workweek for state employees to reduce state costs.

He made headlines for his driving record, which included convictions on 35 motor vehicle violations and having had his driving privilege suspended 21 times.

In response, Scott said it proved to voters that he is a regular person who sometimes makes mistakes.

Work session on MSHA bill

A bill that seeks to give the Maine State Housing Authority board the power to hire and fire its executive director will be considered by the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee at 1 p.m. Thursday.

The bill, L.D. 1778, seeks to require the director of the Maine State Housing Authority to serve at the pleasure of the housing authority board. As it is now, the director is appointed by the governor to a four-year term and can’t be fired unless there’s serious cause for removal.

In recent weeks, questions about spending on affordable housing, travel and donations to various groups have been raised by conservatives. The Legislature’s watchdog office has launched a rapid response investigation, as well as a long-term look at the effectiveness of the agency.

Maine Housing Communications Director Peter Merrill has said the agency is “confident that when an independent review is completed, it will be clear that none of our expenditures were illegal, unethical or inappropriate.”

Senate Majority Leader Jonathan Courtney, R-Springvale, is sponsoring the bill and has said that the agency needs more accountability because “there is a serious need for more affordable housing” in Maine.

LePage on teacher pay

During the town hall in Madison last week, Gov. Paul LePage said teachers aren’t well paid in Maine because school systems haven’t scaled back operations, even though they are teaching fewer students than they were 20 years ago.

“There’s a good reason why we don’t pay our teachers enough,” he said, according to video posted on the liberal website Dirigo Blue.

“We have too many teachers and not enough students.

“The union in the state of Maine has been determined to keep more people working rather than adjusting to a model that is such that we spend more money on training our educators. Like a lot of trades, you’ve got to get refresher courses all the time. We don’t do that in education. So we don’t necessarily have the best practices.”

Chris Galgay, president of the Maine Education Association, said the governor has blamed the union for a variety of problems in education.

“Our association has never made any employment decisions,” he said when asked to respond to the governor’s comments. “So if there are any ineffective teachers in our schools, or too many employees, then the blame should be put where it belongs. The (local school) administration is responsible for evaluating the employees, as well as determining how many employees work in a school district.”

Susan Cover — 620-7015

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John Richardson — 620-7016

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