Eliot Cutler resigned as board president of a Portland-based philanthropic agency on Wednesday, the same day police searched two properties he owns with his wife.

Don Carpenter, executive director of the Lerner Foundation, confirmed Friday that the two-time candidate for Maine governor informed him of his resignation, effective immediately, citing personal reasons. Carpenter didn’t offer additional details. The news was first reported by the Bangor Daily News.

Eliot Cutler, shown in 2015, resigned from a Portland board on the day two properties owned by Cutler and his wife were searched by police. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Police have not said why they searched Cutler’s residences at 84 Pine St. in Portland and 523 Naskeag Point Road in the Hancock County town of Brooklin – only that the searches were prompted by a two-month investigation. No charges have been filed, and no documents related to the searches have been filed in either Cumberland or Hancock County courts.

Cutler has declined to comment to reporters, and his attorney, Walt McKee, also has not answered questions about what the investigation involves or whether police seized anything in the searches.

Cutler, 75, and his wife, Melanie, lived for many years in a 15,000-square-foot mansion on Shore Road in Cape Elizabeth, which they sold last year.

The Bangor native twice ran unsuccessfully for Maine governor, in 2010 and 2014. Prior to that, he was a longtime attorney, mostly in Washington, D.C. Before that, he worked for U.S. Sen. Edmund Muskie, a Democrat from Maine, and in the administration of President Jimmy Carter.


Following his second campaign for governor, Cutler was hired by the University of Maine System to help launch a graduated business and law school.

He has been involved with the Lerner Foundation since its creation in 2007. The organization’s namesakes, Emanuel and Pauline Lerner, were close friends of Cutler’s family. When her husband died, Pauline was looking for a way to do something helpful with the couple’s sizable estate. The foundation started with a $4 million endowment and over its first decade awarded roughly $20 million in grants to various causes.

More recently, the foundation has shifted its focus to assisting children from rural parts of Maine in going to college through its “Aspirations Incubator” program.

Cutler, as board president, earned $50,000 from the Lerner Foundation, according to the organization’s most recent tax filing in 2019. The document also indicated that Melanie Cutler was on the board of directors as well.

As for the searches of Cutler’s properties, it’s possible more information could come out in court.

In Maine, a judge must sign off on every search warrant. To get judicial approval, police must show they have enough evidence connecting a person to a crime, a threshold known as probable cause. Searches are not fishing expeditions, though. The warrant must be specific about what types of information or evidence police are seeking. Police are permitted to seize only property or information that closely matches what they said they were looking for.

Following a search, police must file a receipt with the courts listing the items they seized. Searches don’t always lead to criminal charges but are a sign that an investigation has intensified.

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