AUGUSTA – State ethics officials plan to investigate an automated phone call to a voter that criticized Waterville Mayor Paul LePage’s stance on civil unions on the eve of the Republican gubernatorial primary.

Robert Stone of Auburn filed a complaint with the ethics commission June 11 after receiving the call, which seemed to indicate that LePage wasn’t conservative enough on the issue of same-sex civil unions, Stone said.

“I felt it came from the right of Paul on the political spectrum,” said Stone, who supports LePage but is not affiliated with the campaign.

LePage, who handily won the seven-way primary the next day, opposes same-sex marriage and civil unions but supports “civil law contracts” to define property rights, wills and power of attorney, said campaign Chief of Staff John Morris.

Stone said he waited for the mandatory disclosure in the phone call to find out who paid for it or whether it was authorized by another candidate. But no such disclosure was offered.

If that’s the case, it violates Maine law, said Jonathan Wayne, executive director of the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices.

Stone, who has run for state Senate and describes politics as a hobby, said he immediately knew the call violated state law.

“Candidates and political action committees basically have very stringent rules to follow on these disclosures, and I just didn’t think it was right to do that with a blatant disregard for the rules,” he said.

The call ended by asking how LePage could be trusted to be governor if he can’t be trusted on civil unions, Stone said.

Stone said he returned the call, which his caller ID said was from Middlebury, Vt.

He got a recorded message that did not identify whose number it was. The Kennebec Journal got a similar message when it called the next day. Both left messages but were not called back.

Wayne told ethics commission members Thursday that at least two other people complained about the call.

The commission voted 4-0 to authorize an investigation.

“It is very disturbing for me to see that this happened,” said Commission Chairman Walter McKee. “That kind of call is exactly the kind of call that needs disclosure. It’s completely unfair to Mr. LePage.”

Morris, LePage’s chief of staff, said he was unaware of the investigation and did not want to comment.

“We’re staying right out of it,” he said.

MaineToday Media State House Reporter Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:

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