AUGUSTA – State Rep. Linda Valentino’s new office can stay right where it is, even though it’s not in her legislative district, Maine’s ethics commission ruled Wednesday.

Valentino, a Democrat from Saco, was brought before the commission by Democratic Rep. Don Pilon, also of Saco. Pilon is unhappy that Valentino opened an office in his district on Oct. 21.

The two will compete next spring for the Democratic nomination in Senate District 5, along with Rep. George Hogan, D-Old Orchard Beach. The incumbent, Democrat Barry Hobbins of Saco, can’t seek re-election because of term limits.

Valentino described her office as a multi-use storefront that will be her base for constituent services, a campaign office and work space for her family.

Pilon said, “I thought this was an inappropriate action by another representative, coming into my district to meet with constituents.”

He said he checked with two national organizations and found that lawmakers in other states have constituent offices, but none outside their districts.

Ethics commission Chairman Walter McKee said Valentino’s office is just over the line between Valentino’s District 134 and Pilon’s District 133.

“It’s not like it’s in Aroostook County,” he said.

Valentino hired attorney John Brautigam, a former Democratic legislator, to represent her before the commission. He said she wants to be in the center of Saco so she can meet with constituents when they visit the post office and other places. And she checked with the ethics panel in advance to make sure she was tracking the amount of time spent with constituents and on campaigning, to make sure she pays expenses out of the proper accounts.

“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having an office,” Brautigam said. “It’s a wonderful thing to do.”

While the commission ruled that Valentino was complying with all applicable laws, Commissioner Jane Amero said she agrees with Pilon that the timing of the office’s opening — in his district — seems more campaign-related than constituent-related.

Valentino has been a state representative for seven years, and this is the first time she has opened an office, Amero said.

“Representatives are very protective of their districts,” she said. “For one representative to come into another one’s district is highly unusual, but it’s not illegal.”

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

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