Does the state treasurer’s involvement in the Popham Beach Club violate Maine’s Constitution?

A lawmaker from Portland has asked the state Attorney General’s Office to issue an opinion on whether state Treasurer Bruce Poliquin violated Maine’s Constitution by engaging in commerce while serving as treasurer.

The commerce in question is Poliquin’s role in the Popham Beach Club, a $2,000/year private club in Phippsburg that has angered some nearby residents.

Article v, Part 3 § 3 of the Maine Constitution reads: “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.”

Rep. Mark Dion, a Democrat, lawyer and former Cumberland County Sheriff, said it’s important for Maine people to know whether or not Poliquin violated the constitution.

“I’m calling on the Attorney General to provide clarity on this matter in a timely manner,” he said in his letter.

In 1978, then-Treasurer Jerrold Speers received an opinion from the Attorney General’s Office about whether he could work part time during his term as a constitutional officer. The AG’s office concluded that it was a conflict.

Whether Poliquin’s dealings with the Popham Beach Club constitute “commerce” will determine how the current AG, William Schneider, rules.

Poliquin recently applied for and was granted a business permit to expand the club and allow year-round catering functions there.

According to a column by Bill Nemitz of the Portland Press Herald, Poliquin inquired about his business dealings before he was officially named treasurer.

Former Attorney General Janet Mills, now the vice chair of the Maine Democratic Party, told Nemitz that she could not give Poliquin legal advice until he actually took over as treasurer.

“I think we encouraged him to seek his own private legal counsel if he had any questions – because he wasn’t a public official,” Mills said.

It’s not clear if Poliquin did seek counsel.

Check the Bangor Daily News later for updates on this story.