Commission finds no grounds to investigate conflict of interest complaint

·2 min read

Jun. 11—In an unusual proceeding, the Maine ethics commission voted unanimously Friday not to pursue an investigation into a complaint that a sitting state lawmaker has a conflict of interest.

The 5-0 vote of the Commission on Governmental Ethics and Campaign Finances, which includes two Republicans, two Democrats and one independent, came after commission members heard the complaint during a private video conference.

Details, including who submitted it, the identity of the accused lawmaker and the alleged conflict of interest are considered confidential under the state's Freedom of Access Act. The details of the complaint will now remain confidential.

Jonathan Wayne, executive director of the commission, said conflict of interest complaints are uncommon and the last time the commission considered one was in 2014.

Commission Chair William Lee, a Waterville attorney and Democrat, said the commission's confidential deliberations determined there were insufficient grounds to pursue an investigation into the complaint.

State law defines a conflict of interest as occurring when a legislator or a member of the legislator's family "has or acquires a direct substantial personal financial interest, distinct from that of the general public, in an enterprise that would be financially benefited by proposed legislation."

Under state law, the commission can only oversee sitting lawmakers and may only investigate charges of conflicts of interest, undue influence on an administrative state agency or abuse of office and position when contracting with a state agency.

The last conflict case to the come before the commission was in 2014 but the commission determined there was no conflict so the details of the complaint remain sealed.

The primary role of the ethics commission is to serve as the enforcement agency for the state's campaign finance and disclosure laws. Its duties relate largely to how state political campaigns are financed and disclosure by lobbyists working the Legislature. But the commission will also provide advice to lawmakers on potential conflicts of interest upon request.

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