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Maine Rep. to Resign After Not-Guilty Plea for Fraud Charges

Clinton Collamore has admitted that he signed the names of supporters on funding petitions, after previously pleading not-guilty to the charges. But Collamore maintains that he did not want to deceive regulators.

(TNS) — A Maine lawmaker on Thursday, Feb. 16, said he would resign after pleading not guilty to charges alleging he defrauded the state's taxpayer-funded campaign system.

An attorney for Rep. Clinton Collamore, D-Waldoboro, admitted that his client signed the names of supporters on petitions he used to qualify for public campaign funds, but he noted that the charges require intent and he said the first-term lawmaker did not want to deceive regulators.

"I think it's best for the people who voted for me that I resign at this time," Collamore told reporters after his initial court appearance in Wiscasset on Thursday.

Collamore had remained silent on his case since it was made public last month in a memo from the Maine Ethics Commission after its investigation found more than 30 signatures on petitions he used to qualify for the state's Clean Election system were fraudulent.

To run his November campaign, Collamore got $14,000 under the program, which allows candidates to submit rounds of $5 contributions in exchange for tranches of public campaign funding. While Collamore got the checks from supporters, he is accused of signing many of their names on separate forms used to attest to contributions.

His attorney admitted that on Thursday, but he said Collamore has been "100 percent upfront" with the ethics commission and the attorney general's office on the matter.

"Clearly, he's either the worst criminal on the planet or he did not have the intent, when he hands in the very signature of the party that doesn't match the card that he has signed in his own handwriting," Richard Elliott, his lawyer, said.

The lawmaker stayed in office for a month after the case was made public, despite House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland, calling on him to resign. Collamore has continued to get his salary and benefits despite not showing up for legislative work over the past month.

On Thursday, he said he stayed away from the Legislature over that time because the case has been affecting his health. He also said he has sent his pay for the last month back to the Legislature. Elliott said Collamore will also reimburse the state for the campaign money he used, even though he has no deal in place with prosecutors requiring him to do so.

Collamore's resignation had not been received by the House clerk's office just after 2 p.m. Thursday, according to a Talbot Ross spokesperson. His next court date is a dispositional conference on March 20.

There could be a competitive special election for the seat this year. Collamore won the open seat by just over 300 votes in November against Republican Lynn Madison in a craggy area stretching from the Knox County town of Washington to coastal Friendship where Republicans have a 3.6-percentage-point advantage in voter registration over Democrats.

(c)2023 the Bangor Daily News (Bangor, Maine) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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