Former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rosa Scarcelli is facing fresh 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 & Election Practices claiming that Scarcelli in 2010 reported two campaign donations of $750 from Norberg and his then 21-year-old son without their permission.
Scarcelli has refuted the charges, countering that Norberg’s claims are retaliation for Scarcelli’s lawsuit against him. In that suit, she alleges that Norberg committed corporate malfeasance and fraud at the family’s low-income housing business, GM Holdings LP.
The tangled family dispute, which includes two lawsuits and a countersuit by Norberg, serves as a backdrop for Norberg’s allegations, which if true, could lead to a $5,000 fine against Scarcelli or a Class E crime.
Determining the veracity of Norberg’s claims has already proved difficult for the agency charged with enforcing Maine’s election laws. Ethics staff has conducted a preliminary investigation. However, interviews have produced “sharply contradictory factual accounts” from Norberg, Scarcelli and Scarcelli’s mother Pam Gleichman via her attorney, according to a staff report released Wednesday.
In his memo to the commission board members, Ethics director Jonathan Wayne wrote that the investigation led staff to believe that “Norberg has provided sufficient grounds for believing that a violation may have occurred.”
However, the staff report stopped short of recommending the three-member board penalize Scarcelli. Instead, Wayne advised the commission to consider asking the family to testify at a public meeting. In his report, Wayne noted that the commission has the power to require Norberg, Scarcelli and her mother to provide testimony under oath.
At the center of the complaint is whether Scarcelli reported two campaign donations from Norberg and his son without knowledge or authorization.
The funds came from a family business account that Scarcelli and her mother have access to.
Norberg told the staff that he and his son don’t have any affiliation with the family banking 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.
Norberg’s account is largely corroborated by Scarcelli’s mother, Pamela Gleichman. Gleichman told staff in interviews that Norberg did not support Scarcelli’s campaign.
Scarcelli says her mother authorized the two checks. She also claims that 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 a “tense” event due to the growing estrangement between Norberg and Scarcelli.
Scarcelli told the staff that Norberg was being deceptive about the donations and his access to the family account. Her attorney, Russell Pierce, wrote in a May 22 letter that Norberg had “retaliatory motivations” for filing the complaint.
The commission will review the staff report during its July 25 meeting. 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 an ethics probe into an anonymous attack site against former gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler. Scarcelli denied any involvement in the site, but documents that surfaced in a federal court case suggested that the aspiring political figure played an active role in the site designed to discredit Cutler.
Steve Mistler can be contacted at 791-6345 or at: