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10-29-07, 01:42 AM #1
21 year old running for schoolboard seat, has 18 criminal convictions since graduating high school, sounds like a typical politican.
BRUNSWICK — A 21-year-old Brunswick High School graduate with 18 criminal convictions in the past two years, including five theft charges, is trying to convince voters he's changed enough to represent them in an at-large seat on the town's School Board.
Matthew Lajoie of 23 Larry Lane has lived in Brunswick since age 4, and his neighbors and friends know all about the string of charges he garnered from 2005 to as recently as April of 2006.
So he's not surprised to encounter questions about his criminal history when he knocks on doors campaigning, he said. "They'll say, 'I know your background. Why should I vote for you?'" he said.
Lajoie said he understands the question, given his actions over the past two years where he functioned in a limbo between teenage irresponsibility and adult consequences. According to court documents, he was convicted of theft from Sears by unauthorized taking or transfer in November 2005 in a case handled by the Lewiston District Court.
He also was convicted of charges issued in December of that year from Brunswick police for theft by receiving stolen property, operating while license suspended or revoked and attaching false plates.
For an incident 10 days later on Dec. 16, 2005, Freeport police charged him for operating with a suspended license, a charge courts declared him guilty of in March 2006.
He also paid penalties for convictions of operating with a suspended license and violation of condition of release on charges from Brunswick police on March 6, 2006, followed by charges from Freeport police on March 15, 2006, for operating while license suspended or revoked, failure to stop, remain and provide information and violating condition of release.
Brunswick police also charged him with theft by unauthorized taking or transfer on April 7, 2006, and two counts of theft by unauthorized taking or transfer on April 14, 2006.
But his criminal history climaxed later that month when Lajoie led police on a chase from Bowdoin College, where police said he stole a laptop and books, to Freeport to Topsham where he crashed his vehicle into a ditch near Rite Aid on Mallett Drive and police dragged him from his then-burning vehicle, according to an April 26, 2006, article published in The Times Record.
As a result of that incident, a Cumberland County grand jury indicted Lajoie on a Class C count of failure to stop for an officer, a Class C count of reckless conduct with a weapon, a Class D count of driving to endanger, a Class E count of violating conditions of release and a Class E count of operating after suspension.
He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a fine and spend 100 days in jail, according to court records.
"During that time period, pretty much I didn't have much respect for authorities. I was almost doing whatever it took to get away from them," he said.
But after he landed in the hospital after the high-speed chase, that changed, he said.
"It made me realize, 'What am I doing? What am I doing with my life?' When I turned 20, I was like all this has to stop," he said. "I was getting tired of this being pulled over and hauled to the station and finding bail money."
Lajoie says he hasn't had a conviction since April 2006 and is now paying off the last of his fines. As evidence that he's changed, he points to the fact that he's held down a job at Lamey Wellehan for nearly a full year, chosen a college major, tried to be a voice of experience for his teen-aged siblings and participated in town government.
His interest in the latter prompted Lajoie's quest for a seat on the School Board, for which he is competing with three other candidates. He heard about the town's proposal for a new elementary school on the McKeen Street old high school property and starting speaking at the meetings to share his view of a better plan.
"In the Cook's Corner area, this is where one third of the students come from," he said. Because of that, he advocates building a school in east Brunswick, perhaps on the 66 acres owned by the Navy off Old Bath Road, so transportation costs would be lower and the facility would afford recreational opportunities to area residents.
"After I'd tell them my speeches, a few people were like, 'Why don't you run for school board?'" he said.
At three years into voter eligibility, he's never run for elected office before, but is acting on their suggestion and says his age gives him an advantage in representing the interest of students.
But Brunswick's voting population rather than its student body will decide if Lajoie should represent Brunswick despite his criminal convictions, all of which range from Class C to Class E by Maine's criminal classification system. The system ranks crimes from A, the most severe, to E, the least serious.
But none of his convictions, or anyone's for that matter, are serious enough to preclude one from running for elected municipal offices, which have minimal eligibility requirements.
Town Clerk Fran Smith said while the Town Charter bans town employees from running for School Board, the only other eligibility requirements for running for public office are voter eligibility and residency in one's respective district.
If Lajoie wins the at-large school board seat, however, he will indirectly oversee teachers and school staff that have submitted to more screening than any candidates for municipal office.
David Connerty-Marin, director of communications for the Department of Education, said the state certifies teachers based on a case-by-case basis although no laws preclude a teacher with criminal convictions from obtaining a license to teach.
An exception to that rule involves applicants with criminal convictions regarding the harm of a child, he said.
"Obviously, someone who has a criminal record undergoes higher scrutiny," he said.
In granting a teacher certificates, he said, state staff decide if the applicant evidences good moral character that has been sufficiently re-established to warrant the public trust.
And constitutionally, one's background shouldn't bar an individual from running for public office, according to Mike Starn, director of communication and educational services for the Maine Municipal Association.
Starn said most municipalities do not have eligibility requirements beyond voter qualifications and residency. "You run into some constitutional problems if you don't let the voters decide," he said.
State law stipulates only that a municipal officer be 18 years old, a resident of the state, citizen of the U.S. and a registered voter in the applicable town.
"Can people who have a criminal past run for office? The answer is 'yes,'" he said. "When it comes to issues of character — that's up to the voters to decide."
Eighteen convictions notwithstanding, Lajoie is confident both of his ability to represent the town and to convince voters of the same. "I probably have just as much as a fair shot as all the other people," he said. "The bottom line is that people do change. I'm willing to do something positive, and I believe that school board is a positive change for me."
10-29-07, 01:46 AM #2
wow...how much you wanna bet he's elected?He who has the money, signs the cheques.
He who signs the cheques, makes the rules.
He who makes the rules, has the power.
He who has the power, has the money.
10-29-07, 01:51 AM #3Banned
- Join Date
- Rep Power
I can already seen the signs reading "Lajoie for President 2044"
10-29-07, 02:36 AM #4
He'll fit right into politics, oh yeah, he's just "misunderstood", LOLIt's better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6.
10-29-07, 02:51 AM #5
He will have to commit more crimes to fit in with the real politicians
Pretty women make us BUY beer. Ugly women make us DRINK beer. --Al Bundy
10-29-07, 03:02 AM #6
and to think i was paranoid for a week about the time me and a friend got drunk off our asses and switched peoples political signs and 'home for sale' signs.
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