AUGUSTA — A lawmaker from Portland who says state Treasurer Bruce Poliquin has violated the state Constitution wants the Maine Supreme Judicial Court to weigh in on whether Poliquin should stay in office.

Rep. Mark Dion, a Democrat, plans to file a House order today asking the court to give its opinion on whether Poliquin’s business activity precludes him from continuing as treasurer.

In particular, Poliquin, a Republican who ran for governor in 2010, has said he appeared before the Phippsburg Planning Board last year to request permission to expand one of his businesses, the Popham Beach Club.

The Maine Constitution says the treasurer “shall not, during the treasurer’s continuance in office, engage in any business of trade or commerce, or as a broker, nor as an agent or factor for any merchant or trader.”

Poliquin, who has declined repeated requests for interviews from MaineToday Media, told WGAN-AM on Feb. 7 that it was a mistake for him to speak to the planning board.

Poliquin owns the beach club and a company called Dirigo Holdings LLC, which is the development company for Popham Woods Condominiums.

Dion’s order needs support from Republicans to pass. Even if it does, it will be up to the court to decide whether the situation is a “solemn occasion” worthy of its attention.

Dion said he believes it is a pressing matter that should be weighed by the court. Specifically, he wants the court to decide whether Poliquin violated his oath of office and, if he did, whether it is possible for him to continue serving as treasurer.

Dion said he’s pursuing the matter because an opinion issued this month by Attorney General William Schneider — at Dion’s request — did not address what Dion considers to be Poliquin’s violations of the Constitution. The letter advised Poliquin to disassociate himself from any business ties and said a third party should handle his business dealings while he is treasurer.

“You can’t break the law and just walk away from it,” Dion said. “We have a constitutional officer who has violated the Constitution.”

Dion, who is an attorney and a former Cumberland County sheriff, said it’s not good enough to say, “Moving forward, I’ll abide by the law.”

Also, he said, Poliquin has yet to outline what he’s doing to distance himself from his business holdings.

Poliquin did not respond to a message left on his cellphone Monday. In a statement released to the Maine Public Broadcasting Network, he said he has acted in good faith as treasurer and intends to follow the attorney general’s advice about his personal investments.

Poliquin was chosen by the Republican majority in the Legislature in December 2010 to serve as treasurer, following a recommendation from Gov. Paul LePage. As treasurer, he has been a critic of Democrats. Most recently, he has raised questions about the Maine State Housing Authority.

The Maine Democratic Party has accused Poliquin of failing to fully disclose his financial ties on a form he filed after he became treasurer. The Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices will consider that complaint on Wednesday.

A Democratic-leaning group, Maine’s Majority, has questioned whether Poliquin has properly claimed a tree growth tax exemption on land he owns in Georgetown. At a town hall meeting in Madison last week, Poliquin said he believes the criticism leveled by Democrats is politically motivated.

Through his spokesman, House Speaker Robert Nutting, R-Oakland, declined to comment on the matter Monday.

Legislative orders asking for help from the state supreme court are uncommon.

In 2004, the Legislature asked, and received, guidance from the court when it had questions about a citizen-initiated bill that sought to ask voters to approve a “Taxpayer Bill of Rights.”

In deciding whether it was a solemn occasion, the justices considered whether the “questions are of a serious and immediate nature.”

The court ultimately cleared the question for the statewide ballot, and voters rejected the initiative in 2006.

Dion said he believes that all House members, regardless of political party, should consider the Poliquin issue a constitutional question. “I have never talked about this as a partisan issue,” he said.


Susan Cover — 620-7015

[email protected]

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