June 14, 2012

Maine lawmaker to serve six months for forgery

Republican David Burns, who represented House District 138 for little more than a year, is also ordered to pay $2,384 in restitution.

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

ALFRED — A former state lawmaker from Alfred is going to jail for six months after pleading guilty to misdemeanor forgery and theft charges in connection with his 2010 election campaign.

click image to enlarge

Former state Rep. David R. Burns

Republican David Burns represented House District 138 for little more than a year before resigning his seat Jan. 31. He pleaded guilty today in York County Superior Court to three counts of theft and three counts of forgery. He also was ordered to pay $2,384 in restitution.

The Journal Tribune reported that Burns will report to the York County Jail on Monday.

The criminal charges in February came after the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices found Burns violated eight campaign finance laws and diverted more than $2,500 from the taxpayer-financed Clean Election fund for personal purposes.

Last year Burns was the subject of a random audit by Ethics Commission which found that the lawmaker had routed public financing money to his private bank account, used the funds for personal expenses and provided investigators with false documents.

The commission voted unanimously to send the case to the Attorney General's Office, which then filed an eight-count indictment in February.

Burns' sentence matches the longest jail time for violations of a clean elections law that provides money to candidates running for the Legislature or governor. In 2008 an Androscoggin County Superior Court judge sentenced former Lewiston state legislator William Walcott to six months in jail for using clean election funds on personal items. 

Walcott pled guilty to more than a dozen misdemeanor counts, most theft charges.

Burns, like Walcott, was a sitting legislator when offenses were discovered. Both stepped down amid public pressure from legislative leadership.

Attorney General William Schneider said the Burns sentence sent a strong message to potential clean election candidates.

"Public campaign funds must be used strictly for election expenses and those expenditures must be well-documented," Schneider said. "Legislators have a special duty to tell the truth in response to Ethics Commission inquiries. Using lies and deception to avoid responsibility is never acceptable, but this conduct by an elected official is particularly egregious."



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