Maine GOP hitting back at Dems over handling of lawmaker’s resignation

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Republican Party is criticizing House Minority Leader Emily Cain of Orono for calling for a GOP House member to resign only hours before that lawmaker submitted his resignation.

David R. Burns, R-Alfred, told House Speaker Robert Nutting on Tuesday that he would resign immediately in the wake of the State Attorney General’s office closing its criminal investigation into Burns. (see full story here)

Burns already had been found in violation of the Maine Clean Election Act last November by the Maine Ethics Commission for misusing campaign funds in 2010. The Ethics Commission suggested the AG investigate Burns’ conduct for criminal charges.

Nutting had said all along that he would wait to take action on Burns until that investigation was complete, even as some Democrats repeatedly called for Burns to step down.

The Maine GOP, in a release Wednesday, called Cain’s actions “a blatant example of political gamesmanship.”

Cain said that if Burns was a member of her caucus, she would have asked him to resign immediately after the Ethics Commission ruling.

Maine GOP Chairman Charlie Webster, however, said Democrats have not applied that same high standard to members of their own party in the past.

Webster pointed out five recent examples where Democrats have been convicted of crimes. Four of those cases involved drunken driving. All five are no longer in the Legislature.

Sen. Bruce Bryant of Dixfield pleaded to a charge of operating under the influence in April 2003 but then ran for reelection three times.

Rep. Susanne Ketterer of Madison was convicted of OUI in 2004 and finished the remainder of her term.

Rep. Lillian Lafontaine O’Brien of Lewiston was charged with OUI in 2006 but pleaded guilty to a lesser charge. She remained in the Legislature.

Rep. Sean Flaherty of Scarborough was charged with OUI in August 2010. He did not resign but lost his reelection bid in 2010 to Rep. Amy Volk, a Scarborough Republican.

Finally, Webster said Rep. Chris Barstow, D-Gorham, was accused of misuse funds in Buxton where he served as town recreation director. Barstow resigned from his position in Buxton but remained in the House.

“It is disappointing to find a member of the legislature that may have violated the public trust by the misuse of taxpayer funds,” Webster said in a release. “However, it is more disappointing to see another legislator, especially Rep. Cain as a member of leadership, who wants to pass judgment on a sitting member before the appropriate authority (Maine’s Attorney General) has completed the investigation.”

Jodi Quintero, spokeswoman for the House Democrats, pointed out that Cain was not in leadership during any of the incidents cited by Webster.

“She still believes it was right for him to resign given the fact that he violated clean election laws,” Quintero said. “Republicans shouldn’t be defending the abuse of taxpayer funds.”

Maine Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant added this response:

“Is this what their party has come to? The GOP is doubling down on defending a legislator who broke the law and was forced to resign in shame. What we really need to be focus on is putting money in the pockets of middle class Mainers and getting back the 7,000 jobs we’ve lost since the Republicans took over.”