Portland, state reject ethics complaint by Question 2 proponents

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PORTLAND — An ethics complaint filed by supporters of failed referendum Question 2 was rejected by the city clerk and will not be considered by the state ethics commission.

“I have reviewed the substance of your letter and Maine Law, and I have found no violations in the Maine Media Collective and Portland’s Future’s 11 day reports,” City Clerk Katherine Jones said in a Nov. 5 letter to Peter Macomber of referendum proponent Save the Soul of Portland.

On Monday, Jonathan Wayne, executive director of the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, said the commission will not examine whether opponents of the referendum violated spending and disclosure laws.

“At this point the commission is not planning on taking any action on the complaint,” Wayne said.

Question 2, which failed 11,793 to 7,002 on Nov. 3, sought to amend zoning on a portion of the Portland Co. complex at 58 Fore St., create a task force to recommend protecting scenic viewpoints in Portland, and require developers to provide more land use information when seeking zoning changes.

In an Oct. 26 letter to Jones and Wayne, Macomber questioned whether Maine Media Collective committed a “violation of campaign finance reporting requirements” with its latest edition of Old Port magazine, which was devoted to opposing Question 2 and was funded by $1,000 contributions from advertisers.

Maine Media Collective did file as a political action committee.

Publisher Kevin Thomas on Monday said he was glad the complaint was rejected.

“We thank the city clerk for conducting a careful review of the complaint, and for correctly concluding that we have fully complied with all campaign finance laws and regulations,” Thomas said. “It is unfortunate that the baseless complaint was filed in the first place, but we are glad that it did not become a distraction in the election last week.”

Macomber also asked Jones and Wayne to look into the nature of a contribution of $9,000 from Portland’s Future, another PAC established to oppose Question 2. Spending reports from Portland’s Future listed the amount as an unpaid debt, while Maine Media Collective listed it as a contribution.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

An ethcs complaint filed by supporters of Question 2 in Portland centered on this issue of Old Port magazine.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.