Three Maine companies that own apartments that lease to the elderly, disabled and low-income residents have filed for bankruptcy.

The companies are all seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, which will allow them to try to reorganize their debts and then resume normal financial operations.

The holdings of the companies – Pine State Housing, Montfort Housing and Birch Ridge Housing – include Munjoy South, a housing project near the base of Portland’s Munjoy Hill, and The Birches, an apartment complex for elderly and disabled residents in Old Orchard Beach. The complexes will continue to operate while the companies are in bankruptcy court.

All three companies list Michael Liberty as a general partner. Liberty in the 1980s was the most prominent developer in Maine but he has since moved to Florida and focused his business attention elsewhere. He was convicted of illegal campaign donations in Maine late last summer and recently was released from federal prison after serving a four-month sentence.

A judge earlier this month ordered a stay in the proceedings while the companies’ lawyers and creditors to try to work out some disputes over the process. No date for a meeting has been set.

A lawyer for Stanford Management, the firm that runs some of the apartment complexes, said the filing is a ploy to allow Liberty to end the contracts with the company and sell the management rights to a new operator. Bankruptcy judges often allow companies to unilaterally abrogate contracts as part of the restructuring.

“I think they’re trying to get out of the management contracts,” said Toby Dilworth. “He’s trying to sell the same thing twice.”

A call to George Marcus, the lawyer who is representing the three companies in the bankruptcy, was not returned Tuesday.

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