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Politics

Commission: Former Police Chief Falsified Donor Signatures in Clean Elections Forms

The Maine Ethics Commission has determined that a former Lewiston police chief falsified documents while attempting to qualify for a public financing program that funds legislative candidates’ political campaigns.

The 12-page letter from the Maine Ethics Commission found that William Welch, a former police chief, falsified the signatures of at least 10 people who donated to the Republican’s state senate campaign. The donations were supposed to help the qualify Welch for Maine Clean Elections funds, the state’s public campaign financing program.

Donors are supposed to sign a form acknowledging they in fact made the contributions. According to the letter, Ethics Commission staff noticed inconsistencies between the donor signatures Welch submitted and those on the voter file with the secretary of state.

When confronted by a detective with the Maine Office of Attorney General, Welch said that the donors had given him permission to sign their names. However, commission staff and the detective found his assertion inconsistent with interviews conducted with those very same donors.

The Ethics Commission notified Welch on June 20 that they found that he falsified the signatures in violation of state law, and that he would not qualify for the Clean Elections program.

Eight days later, Welch announced that he was dropping out of the race in a Facebook post, citing health reasons as well as the health of his father.

If he had qualified as a Clean Elections candidate, Welch would have received at least $20,000 in taxpayer funds to run his campaign, and could have qualified for up to $60,000 to challenge incumbent Sen. Nate Libby, a Democrat.

Jonathan Wayne, head of the ethics commission, said that review of Welch’s signatures is routine to “reassure the public that their tax dollars are being spent responsibly.”

“We will not tolerate candidates or their supporters falsifying other people’s names on forms or money orders,” he said.

Wayne said that the attorney general’s office was made aware of the commission’s concerns and Welch later admitted to a detective that he had signed around 10 contributors’ names on the receipt forms. He said the commission does not plan to take any further punitive action against Welch.

“At this point, the matter is concluded as far as our office is concerned,” Wayne said.

It’s unclear whether Republicans will attempt to draft another candidate to replace Welch. The Androscoggin County Republican Committee has two weeks from Monday to do so.