AUGUSTA – A lawmaker from York County who is accused of misusing state campaign funds, submitting false documents to investigators and committing other campaign finance violations faces a criminal investigation by the attorney general, following a vote Wednesday by the state ethics commission.

The commission found that Rep. David R. Burns, R-Alfred, committed seven violations of the state law that governs use of Clean Election Act money. Among them: transferring public campaign money into his personal bank account, using the money for personal expenses and giving false documents to investigators.

Commission Chairman Walter McKee said he found it “mind-boggling” that Burns had turned in false documents.

“I certainly have never seen anything at this level of severity and number of counts,” he said. “I think we have to send a very clear message here.”

The violations are civil, and come with fines, but the commission did not assess fines Wednesday. Instead, it decided to await the outcome of the attorney general’s investigation.

The commission did order Burns to reimburse the state $2,285 for money spent on items that were questioned or expenses that were claimed but not documented. Those include meals at restaurants, a reported payment of more than $600 for yard signs that were not purchased, and the reported purchase of newspaper advertising that never ran.

Burns did not attend Wednesday’s hearing in Augusta. His attorney, William Logan, said little in testimony before the ethics panel, but said afterward that he and Burns will continue to cooperate with investigators.

“We certainly respect the work the ethics commission has done,” he said. “We’ve cooperated with the investigation and we will continue to cooperate with the AG’s office.”

Logan said he doesn’t feel that the investigation will interfere with Burns’ ability to serve in the Legislature. He said he does not know whether Burns will run for re-election next year.

“He certainly hasn’t been charged with any criminal conduct,” Logan said.

When asked why Burns would transfer public campaign funds into his personal account, Logan said he wouldn’t comment on the specifics of the case because it has been referred to the Attorney General’s Office.

Burns was a first-time House candidate in 2010, running in a district in southern Maine that covers Alfred, Limerick, Newfield and Shapleigh. As a Clean Election candidate, he was authorized to spend $9,066 in public money for campaign expenses.

Ethics commission executive director Jonathan Wayne said there have been few instances of abuse of the system in the past four election cycles. Four candidates have been referred to the attorney general for investigation.

The case most similar to the Burns investigation involved Rep. William Walcott, D-Lewiston, who resigned from the Legislature in August 2007 during an investigation into his use of public campaign money.

He later pleaded guilty to several misdemeanors, most of them theft, that came from improper use of public funds during his 2004 and 2006 races.

Walcott used his campaign money for videos, pizza, restaurants and other items unrelated to the campaigns. He was sentenced to serve six months in jail.

Burns allegedly used state money to pay a $118.95 bill at a Korean restaurant, charged the state for gas he purchased 24 days after the election and reported campaign expenditures that never were made.

Ethics officials also allege that Burns faked a letter that was supposed to prove he paid $475 for campaign signs.

In addition, he is accused of moving money from his campaign account to his personal account, making it difficult for investigators to determine how the money was spent. As a result, ethics officials allege that Burns spent more than $2,500 on items that were not related to his campaign.

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

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