AUGUSTA – A Maine Ethics Commission investigation into who is bankrolling a referendum campaign to bring a casino to York County was delayed again Friday when the panel voted to give the subjects of the probe more time to provide banking records and prepare objections to two subpoenas the commission issued last month.

The delay means the investigation will likely not be finished until later in the fall – and possibly just days before voters head to the polls Nov. 7 to decide if they want to approve the ballot question. The question is written to allow only one man, Lisa Scott’s brother, Shawn Scott, to build a casino in an unnamed location in York County.

The casino campaign committee, Horseracing Jobs Fairness, spent over $4.3 million collecting voter signatures to get on the ballot. But misleading filings with the ethics commission, which have since been amended, could be viewed as violations of state campaign finance law. The ethics panel, which oversees campaign finance spending, could fine the casino group as much as the $4.3 million that the campaign has already spent.

The commission voted unanimously to give Lisa Scott, the casino campaign’s primary officer, more time to provide financial documents the panel’s staff is seeking for its investigation. More time to produce records was also given to the committee’s treasurer, Cheryl Timberlake.

Shawn Scott is an international gambling entrepreneur who won voter approval to add slot machines to Bangor’s struggling horse track in 2003. He then sold those rights to Penn National – which still operates what is now Bangor’s successful Hollywood Casino – for $51 million as regulators scrutinized his businesses and associates.

A license for a casino in York County is estimated to be worth as much as $150 million.

Shawn Scott has collected massive paychecks “flipping” racetracks and gambling facilities across the country while being dogged by lawsuits and complaints about his business practices.

In its discussion Friday, the ethics commission sought to strike a balance between moving the investigation forward and avoiding disagreements that could sidetrack the matter into court. Avery Day, an attorney for Timberlake, appeared ready to turn over records from the Horse Racing Jobs Fairness committee bank account controlled by his client. However, Bruce Merrill, an attorney for Lisa Scott, said she was on a European vacation and he had no way to get in touch with her and consult on the investigation.

Merrill did agree to finally accept and signed for a subpoena for banking documents from Scott and two limited liability corporations she apparently used to funnel money to the ballot question committee.

Merrill and another attorney for Timberlake refused to accept the subpoenas from the commission in June, although Day has accepted the subpoena on Timberlake’s behalf.

Merrill also objected Friday to Day turning over some of the documents in Timberlake’s possession, saying they actually belonged to Lisa Scott.

Based on the commission’s votes, Day will now have until July 26 to provide the documents sought by the commission staff, while Merrill will have until Aug. 1 to consult with Lisa Scott and present objections to parts of the subpoena.

Merrill would then have until Sept. 1 to provide the commission with the documents it has requested.

But Merrill did not accept a subpoena for Lisa Scott to appear before the committee to answer questions in person. He said he needed to see the subpoena first and consult with her.

Merrill also said he did not know Lisa Scott’s precise address, which the commission requested again, in hopes of being able to actually serve her with a subpoena to appear.

Commissioner Richard Nass said he couldn’t understand why Scott and her attorneys wanted to drag on the mystery of who was bankrolling the campaign, noting it wasn’t going to help them win support from voters.

Nass said he was also worried the commission’s investigation would not be complete by Election Day on Nov. 7 and voters would be going to the polls with no clue about who was funding the drive for a casino.

“I just can’t imagine this is going to be helpful if we stretch this thing out into September, there are going to be some other objections and pretty soon we are going to be into November,” Nass said. ” I think we have an obligation to try to get information before voters go into the polls in November, this thing gets stretched out and maybe we aren’t going to get there.”

Other commissioners also noted that while Lisa Scott may have preplanned her current vacation, she and her attorneys have known for weeks that the commission was seeking financial records from her.

In early June the commission’s staff recommended it launch an investigation in the ballot question committee and its funding sources. The campaign and its financial backers have also been scrutinized closely by the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, which has jurisdiction over both election law and gambling in Maine.

The chairmen of that committee, Rep. Louis Luchini, D-Ellsworth and Sen. Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon, also asked the ethics commission to investigate.

In March, another attorney and lobbyist, Daniel Riley, appeared before the legislative committee and said he had been hired to represent one of Shawn Scott’s companies Bridge Capital but in April, Riley recanted in a letter to the committee,writing that he was mistaken. That added to questions over who was actually bankrolling the ballot push and who would ultimately benefit from it were it approved in November.

The Legislature could still vote to put a competing measure on the November ballot, but it would have to do so soon. It could also repeal or amend any new casino law were it to be approved by voters.

The ethics commission will meet again on August 10 to resume its discussions about its investigations and to vote on any objections presented by Merrill.

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 791-6330 or at:

[email protected]

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