Racino supporters fined for late finances (April 3, 2009)

Posted by Leader Editor at 4/3/2009 1:16 PM
Categories: Business News,Nate Jones
By Nate Jones

Staff Writer 

For Scarborough Village Partners – the group that lobbied for citizen approval of a proposed $1 billion, 200-acre village center and racino development in November – the cost of filing legal financial reports out of schedule during last year’s election process has increased significantly.

Last month, the state’s Commission on Governmental Ethics Executive Director Jonathan Wayne recommended Scarborough Village Partners be fined a maximum $250 for three violations.

“We put a lot of weight on the fact that they didn’t get the best information about when the finances were due,” he said.

Last week, commission members decided to fine the organization more than $12,000 – 48 times more than Wayne’s initial recommendation of $250.

“They pretty much got slammed down,” said former Town Councilor Sue Foley-Ferguson, who supported “Save Our Scarborough’s” efforts against the proposal during the election.

Wayne said he wasn’t sure exactly why the commission inflated the fine, but Ferguson and Casinos No! spokesman Dennis Bailey said they think the final decision hinged on former town councilor Dan Warren’s involvement with the campaign. According to Scarborough Village Partner’s financial reports, Warren received $30,000 from Penn National Gaming in October for “campaign consulting services.” Bailey said during that same month Warren wrote letters to local papers and was quoted in advertisements supporting the racino proposal.

Wayne said Scarborough Village Partners did not include Warren’s payment in financial reports they filed in October, an omission that Bailey said led him to believe Warren had spoken in favor of the project of his own volition.

“Dan is a real well-known guy, it was a brutal blow,” he said. “We really thought we had lost the race.” 

The $30,000 payment first appeared in an amended financial report Scarborough Village Partners filed on Jan. 15 – more than a month after the racino proposal was narrowly defeated in the general election referendum – Wayne said. 

“The fact that [Warrren] got paid and didn’t disclose it – I don’t know,” Bailey said. “It’s certainly unethical, but maybe not illegal.”

Warren said he had been open about being hired by Scarborough Village Partners since the early stages of the campaign. Anyone who assumed he was supporting the project of his own volition was mistaken, he said.

“In fall 2008, the national economy suffered badly. At that time, our law school classmate of 30 years ago, [Scarborough Downs legal council] Ed MacColl, asked us to consider supporting the Scarborough Downs proposal. We examined the language, had our concerns addressed, and agreed to let our names be used,” Warren wrote in an email to the Leader. “We ended up doing about three months of work. This work involved both legal analysis, consideration of local and state laws, and political consulting. We also ended up assisting with the ballot inspection brought on by the close margin at the polls; the Scarborough Downs side only lost by a few hundred votes. […] I am glad we got involved. We would do so again to help horse racing.”

Although the financial records indicate the payment was made directly to Warren, he said the $30,000 was for work conducted by the Scarborough-based Jones and Warren PA law firm where he practices.

“You can write the check to me, my partner or straight to the firm,” he said. “It all goes to the same checking account.”

Scarborough Downs Advertising Representative Katherine Robinson, who was in charge of the Scarborough Village Partners financing, did not return calls from the Leader.

While Wayne said the commission did discuss Warren’s involvement during their deliberations, it was unclear exactly how it attributed to the final $12,250 penalty. Wayne said the funds will be placed in the state’s general fund for the upcoming year.

“Usually we require the payment within one month, but with a penalty as large as this we’re open to payment plans,” Wayne said. “It’s one of the bigger fines.”

For some, the amount Scarborough Village Partners will pay is no comparison to the price of allowing slots in town. 

“They got off cheap,” former town councilor Mark Maroon said. “Here’s the scary part – what if they had won? That’s the cheapest election they could have bought.”





Portland Press Herald


Attorney explains pay for work on slots vote

Daniel Warren says he assisted the Scarborough racino effort out of a long regard for horse racing.

By DAVID HENCH Staff Writer March 31, 2009

A local attorney says his work in favor of allowing slot machines at Scarborough Downs stemmed from his long-standing support for horse racing in Maine.

Dan Warren of Scarborough was paid $30,000 by Penn National Gaming for consulting services in connection with last November's unsuccessful ballot initiative to allow slot machines at the track, according to documents filed with the Maine ethics commission.

The commission discussed the compensation last week because it was not reported by the Scarborough Village Partnership political action committee until January, even though Warren provided services before the November referendum.

Warren issued a statement Monday about the work in response to a Portland Press Herald story about the issue that appeared Friday. Warren said he could not be reached for comment before the article's publication because of a death in his family.

Warren explained that his firm, Jones and Warren, was asked by Ed MacColl, a University of Maine School of Law classmate and Scarborough Downs' attorney, to support the track's proposal. The firm's attorneys agreed to allow their names to be used, he said, and Warren was featured in some advertising advocating the slots.

Later, he said, slot machine proponents asked for some legal assistance, which the firm provided in exchange for the fee, he said.

The work included legal analysis and political consulting, he said.

The firm was paid a one-time fee of $30,000, he said.

"I'm glad we got involved," Warren said in the statement. "We would do so again to help horse racing."

The ballot initiative to allow slot machines at the Scarborough racetrack failed by 240 votes.

The issue of Warren's compensation came up last Thursday during a review by the state ethics commission of slot machine proponents' failure to file financial reports for a political action committee on time.

The commission fined the PAC $12,250.

The PAC spent about $135,000, and its sole contributor was Penn National Gaming, which runs the state's only slot machine parlor, Hollywood Slots, in Bangor.

The commission did not say the delayed reporting of Warren's service was a violation, and it was not part of the fine.

Opponents of the slot machine proposal criticized the failure to disclose payments to Warren until January, saying voters were not privy to the payments when considering Warren's advocacy for the project.

Warren noted that his firm's work did not include filing the financial reports.

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at dhench@pressherald.com

Copyright © 2009 MaineToday Media, Inc.

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