"For much of the state of Maine, the environment is the economy"
May 18, 2005
The decision by District Attorney Michael Povich not to proceed with criminal charges for bribery against LNG developers in the recent Perry, ME referendum was strongly disputed today by local residents.
"If this is not a bribe, it sure smells like one," Nancy Asante, a Perry resident said. "They did not offer any funds to Pembroke or Robbinston or Eastport, even though they would also be negatively impacted by this development. But then those towns didn’t have a vote on the issue like Perry did."
Quoddy Bay LLC had offered to give $340,000 to the Town of Perry just three weeks before a referendum was to be held on rejecting the LNG plan. Two weeks later the offer was raised to $1 million following a heated public hearing where voters expressed strong objections to having the terminal in their area.
District Attorney Povich stated in his decision that, "based on a literal reading of this part of the statute, it could be suggested that a bribe was being offered to the voters of Perry that if the LNG was allowed to be built $1 million a year would be added to the town’s treasury."
But he added, since the "pecuniary benefit" of the offer was made as an "economic advantage to the public generally" and not as "economic gain" to specific individuals, he felt he could not proceed with a criminal investigation.
"Don Smith may have gotten off on a technicality," Gary Guisinger of Perry said, "but it still leaves a pretty bad taste in the mouth about how this guy conducts his business.
"Frankly," Guisinger said, "most of us never expected he would pay up anyway, even if he won the vote and built the damned thing."
Six Perry voters had requested that District Attorney Povich investigate the offer to see if it constituted an illegal effort to influence voters. They submitted the request on March 24 and Mr. Povich issued his decision on May 18.
"The fact that he took so much time almost two months to make a decision on this indicates to me that it must have been a pretty close call," Asante said. "And I think he must have been under heavy pressure from the LNG promoters to issue a statement at this time.
Guisinger also took issue where Mr. Povich refers to the $1 million election eve offer as an "impact fee."
"Look, 'impact fees' are based on how a new development project will affect a town's budget, not on how it will affect an election outcome," he said. "There was no basis established to determine the level of impact, let alone the cost of the impact. It was just a figure they pulled out of a dark place that they thought would win them the vote, which it did not."
As it turned out, Perry voters rejected the LNG plan 279-214 anyway.Top