AUGUSTA — State Rep. Mark Dion said Tuesday that he now has more evidence that state Treasurer Bruce Poliquin has violated the Maine Constitution by engaging in private business.

And he called on Attorney General William Schneider to answer his three-week-old request for an opinion. “This is a straightforward question,” said Dion, D-Portland.

Poliquin, meanwhile, went on the radio Tuesday to defend himself, after declining to comment on the issue for the past three weeks.

Poliquin denied actively running his businesses, including the Popham Beach Club in Phippsburg, and said he made a mistake in December when he appeared before the Phippsburg Planning Board to ask permission for expanded operations at the club.

“That was a mistake, by the way. I should not have gone to that (meeting). That was a dumb thing to do,” Poliquin said in a conversation Tuesday morning with the hosts of the “Ken and Mike Show” on WGAN-AM.

Poliquin said he was asked to attend the meeting as the owner.

However, Poliquin also had signed the application to the Planning Board several weeks before the meeting.

He dismissed the questions about his business activity as political pushback against his efforts to “straighten out the mess” that Democrats created in state government. He has been an outspoken critic of Democratic leadership, focusing most recently on the director of the Maine State Housing Authority.

Poliquin did not respond to an interview request for this story.

Dion wrote a letter to the attorney general on Jan. 17, asking for an advisory opinion about Poliquin’s activities on behalf of the beach club. Maine’s Constitution says the state treasurer “shall not … engage in any business of trade or commerce.”

There is room for a treasurer to invest in businesses, Dion said, but he can’t be involved in managing a business because of the potential for conflicts of interest or misuse of the office.

“It raises the specter of improper influence,” Dion said.

He released documents Tuesday referring to Poliquin’s other business, Dirigo Holdings LLC. Dirigo Holdings is the developer of Popham Woods, a planned 69-unit condominium development on 183 acres near the Popham Beach Club.

In a letter last week to the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, Poliquin said he is the sole owner and registered business agent of Dirigo Holdings, and that a manager/bookkeeper oversees operations.

The letter was in response to a separate complaint that Poliquin did not report business activity and income on a financial disclosure form last year. Poliquin said he didn’t list his businesses because they didn’t generate any income to report.

Dion said the information in the letter about Dirigo Holdings provides additional evidence that Poliquin is violating the no-business clause of the Constitution. He said he believes that Poliquin has been involved in developing and marketing the project.

“We’re repeating our call (for) the attorney general to take this new evidence into consideration,” Dion said.

A spokeswoman for the attorney general said Tuesday that the matter is still under review.

Poliquin, meanwhile, told radio listeners that he is working too hard as state treasurer to run a business on the side.

“To become a state treasurer, you do not have to sell everything you own,” Poliquin told WGAN listeners Tuesday. “I have other people who run those assets for me. … I barely have enough time to sleep and someone is claiming that I’m self-employed and run my own business?”

However, Poliquin suggested that he might have to distance himself from his business interests, depending on what the attorney general says.

“We’ll make adjustments if we have to,” he said.

 

MaineToday Media State House Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 620-7016 or at: [email protected]