Maine Democrat Rival to Susan Collins Blocked Ethics Investigation

Current Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon (D) failed to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct with minors made against a former fellow Democrat in the State House, the Washington Free Beacon reported Wednesday.

Now the Democrat U.S. Senate candidate from the Pine Tree State, Gideon is seeking to unseat incumbent Sen. Susan Collins (R).

Endorsed by Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Emily’s List – abortion rights groups that have refused to endorse pro-choice Republican Collins because of her vote to affirm current Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court – Gideon is being challenged with her failure to deal appropriately with the sexual misconduct allegations against former Democrat State Rep. Dillon Bates.

The Free Beacon reported that Gideon rallied Maine House Democrats in 2018 “to vote against an ethics investigation into how her office dealt with sexual misconduct allegations” against the former Democrat lawmaker.

Rep. Paula Sutton (R) of Warren said Gideon opposed the call for an investigation, and asserted the House Speaker’s decision to resist it showed politics, and not protecting minors, was her primary concern.

“Sara Gideon had an opportunity for full transparency, and she voted it down,” Sutton told the Free Beacon. “They just want to crush the problem, because they’re afraid to deal with it. It’s just a lack of courage—a complete lack of conviction and courage.”

According to a report at WMTW in August 2018, Mary-Erin Casale, a spokeswoman for Gideon, confirmed the speaker knew about the misconduct allegations against Bates for “several months.”

WMTW further reported a Democrat staffer said there was no truth to the rumors about him.

Casale, however, said Bates had denied the accusations, and the speaker’s office had found no proof.

“At that point, we told Rep. Bates that if any evidence or new information was presented that indicated there could be truth to what was then a rumor, that we would ask him to resign immediately,” she said.

When Portland-based news outlet The Bollard published a report that detailed allegations of sexual misconduct against Bates by anonymous victims, Gideon called upon the representative to resign.

Sutton hoped a call for an ethics probe into how Gideon’s office handled the allegations against Bates “would uncover whether Gideon sought to cover up Bates’s sexual misconduct for months, as well as give Bates a chance to exonerate himself in a public space,” the Free Beacon observed.

Ultimately, however, 64 of 73 House Democrats voted to table the motion for an ethics investigation, with eight abstaining.

“I just think Gideon just didn’t want to deal with it,” Sutton said. “Once he resigned, it was over and done in their eyes, and they wanted to move on to other things.”

The Free Beacon observed Gideon also rallied her caucus in 2017 to kill a motion for an ethics probe into another Democrat lawmaker accused of conflict of interest.

The Bollard story noted Bates, who hailed from Westbrook, identified himself on his Twitter account as having many “roles,” including “State Representative, Dad, Teacher, Coach, Director, Citizen, Dog Enthusiast and Human. Plays none of them well.”

The report went on:

Bates, who recently turned 30, is not who he appears to be. He has used some (if not all) of those “roles” to get close to teenage girls. Though he holds positions of authority over them, Bates is casual and sociable with high school students, flirty and fun. He has used a combination of charm and deception to manipulate female students into sexual relationships with him.

One victim, who spoke to The Bollard on condition of anonymity, reportedly said, “He was the one who kind of initiated the relationship. I kinda [went along] with it because I was flattered this older guy was interested in me.”

“He was very flattering and made me feel like I was an important person. … It’s super predatory behavior,” the victim added. “He basically coerced me into a lot of things I didn’t want to do [sexually] using a lot of lying and manipulation.”

According to the report, Westbrook police were informed of Bates’ alleged inappropriate activity with several minor girls.

The Bollard also reported:

Bates made the papers in the spring of 2017, when he was fined by the Maine Ethics Commission for failing to return over $2,600 in public campaign funds left over from the 2014 and ’16 races. The Portland Press Herald reported that staff from the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices “contacted Bates directly 11 times” over a two-month period to inform him that he had to return the money. Bates eventually complied, but had to add hundreds of dollars of his own cash to make up the difference, thus mingling public and private funds in a way that also broke the rules. He claimed he had been working between 75 and 80 hours every week and was unable to find the time to visit a bank branch to withdraw the funds in person.

Bates “abruptly resigned from his job at the Maine Girls’ Academy last November,” reported the Press Herald, and then resigned from his coaching position at Massabesic High School once the report of the allegations of sexual misconduct emerged.

The news outlet added Bates continued to deny the allegations and was never charged with any crimes, though its “months” of investigations into the allegations resulted in no one who would speak on the record about the complaints.

“The allegations made against Rep. Bates are deeply troubling,” Gideon said, according to the Press Herald, after The Bollard report was published. “I cannot condone this behavior, I value the voices of the young women who came forward and I have requested that Rep. Bates resign from office immediately.”

Bates, however, refused to resign his seat initially, but did so two weeks later.

Meanwhile, Sutton announced her intention to formally request a House Ethics probe into the allegations against Bates and how they were handled.

“These are very serious allegations against Rep. Bates and as members of the House of Representatives, it is our responsibility to hear this matter,” she said in a statement. “We must be very mindful that due process is a critical component to the proper functioning of our society and Rep. Bates, his constituents and the people of Maine deserve a proper hearing in light of the Speaker’s demand that he resign.”

A member of the Government Oversight Committee, Sutton submitted the House Order requesting a vote on an Ethics Committee investigation.

“There are media stories with allegations from a victim who spoke out about Rep. Bates’ alleged misconduct as a teacher and a coach,” said House Republican Leader Ken Fredette upon Sutton’s call for an ethics probe.

“The Speaker of the House, a Democrat, has demanded his resignation,” he added. “To not take action on these allegations erodes public trust in our elected officials and the Maine House of Representatives. This is the purpose of the House Ethics Committee.”

In September 2018, the Maine Department of Education declined to renew Bates’ teaching certification.

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