Former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rosa Scarcelli faces new allegations of campaign-related impropriety, this time from her stepfather.

Karl Norberg, who is married to Scarcelli’s mother, has filed a complaint with the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices claiming that in 2010 Scarcelli reported two campaign donations of $750 from Norberg and his then 21-year-old son without their permission.

Scarcelli has denied the charges, countering that Norberg’s claims are retaliation for her lawsuit against him, alleging that Norberg committed corporate malfeasance and fraud in the family’s low-income housing business, GM Holdings LP.

The family dispute, which includes two lawsuits and a countersuit by Norberg, is a backdrop for Norberg’s allegations, which could lead to a $5,000 fine against Scarcelli or a Class E crime.

Determining the veracity of Norberg’s claims has proved difficult for the ethics commission, whose staff has done a preliminary investigation. Interviews have produced “sharply contradictory factual accounts” from Norberg, Pamela Gleichman — Scarcelli’s mother — and Scarcelli via her attorney, according to a staff report released Wednesday.

In his memo to the commissioners, Executive Director Jonathan Wayne wrote that the investigation led the staff to believe “Norberg has provided sufficient grounds for believing that a violation may have occurred.”

The report stopped short of recommending the three-member board penalize Scarcelli. Wayne advised the commission to consider asking the family to testify at a public meeting. He noted that the commission has the power to require Norberg, Scarcelli and her mother to testify under oath.

At the center of the complaint is whether Scarcelli reported two campaign donations from Norberg and his son without their knowledge or authorization. The funds came from a family business account that Scarcelli and her mother can access.

Norberg told the staff that he and his son don’t have any affiliation with the account — a claim that Scarcelli called “disingenuous” and “misleading.”

Norberg said he discovered that the campaign contributions were in his name while reading a story about Scarcelli on the Huffington Post website.

Norberg’s account is largely corroborated by Gleichman, who told the ethics commission’s staff that Norberg did not support Scarcelli’s campaign. Scarcelli lost in the Democratic primary in June 2010.

Scarcelli says her mother authorized the two checks. She also says Norberg agreed to the donations during a family Christmas party in 2009.

When interviewed by the staff, Gleichman said Norberg was adamant that he wouldn’t contribute to his stepdaughter’s campaign and that the Christmas party was “tense” because of the growing estrangement between Norberg and Scarcelli.

Scarcelli’s attorney, Russell Pierce, wrote in a letter May 22 that Norberg had “retaliatory motivations” for filing the complaint.

The commission will review the staff report on July 25. It will decide then whether to order the parties to testify at a later meeting.

The complaint is Scarcelli’s second encounter with the commission. She and her husband, Thomas Rhoads, were at the center of a probe into an anonymous attack website against 2010 gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler.

Scarcelli denied any involvement in the site, but documents in a federal court case suggested that she played an active role in the site designed to discredit Cutler. 

Staff Writer Steve Mistler can be contacted at 791-6345 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: stevemistler