Late last year, signature collectors began a massive petition drive in York County in hopes of bringing slot machines and/or a casino to Southern Maine. Yesterday, the elections committee rejected the petition for failing to receive enough valid signatures to get a referendum on the November 2016 ballot. As a result, many signature collectors have not been paid, and they’re beyond irate about it.
The York County casino petition first began circulating on December 1, 2015. It was funded by a local organization, Harness Racing Jobs Fairness, which hired Olympic Consultants – owned by Stavros Mendros – to organize the petition drive. Olympic was paid $111,935 to get the job done; $67,000 of which was to be used to pay signature collectors.
Menrdos, in turn, hired numerous circulators to take to the streets and gather valid signatures for the petition, entitled “An Act To Allow Slot Machines Or a Casino in York County”. On February 1, 2016, two months after the campaign started, the Bureau of Corporations, Elections and Commissions reported it had received the completed petition with a grand total of 91,294 signatures.
The petition needed only 61,123 signatures in order to get the initiative on the November ballot.
However, on March 2, after inspecting all 91,000+ signatures, Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap confirmed that the slot machines petition has failed. Officials discovered that only 35,518 of the signatures were valid, with 55,776 deemed invalid.
In order for signatures to be valid, they must come from residents of York County who are qualified electors, registered to vote in the state of Maine.
And now, because the petition not only failed, but harvested over 60% invalid signatures, Mendros’ firm is not willing to pay the full $7-$10 per signature he’d promised each of his circulators.
Signature Collectors Irate
John Merchant is one such circulator of the York County casino petition. He traveled to Maine just to take the job, and wasted no time going to the media to complain about the $3,800 he says Mendros owes him. Merchant said that Mendros isn’t just refusing to pay, he’s attempting to suppress complaints from his hired collectors.
“He said anyone that goes to the news media doesn’t get paid,” claimed Merchant. “I guess I’m not going to get paid.”
Merchant traveled to California this week looking for work in the state, where numerous petition drives are being held. But he said no one wanted to hire him because of his public complaints over not being paid in the Maine slot machines / casino petition.
“I’m being blackballed all over the country,” he said with exasperation.
Local collector Glen Witham worked for Silver Bullet, a company hired by Olympic, and said he got paid, but not the full amount originally agreed upon. Because the petition failed so horribly, he settled a smaller amount with the company, and was not disappointed with the outcome.
Daryl Bonner circulated the slots machines and casino petition throughout the neighborhoods of Alfred and Sanford, estimating that at least 90% of his signatures were valid. Considering that more than 55,000 of the overall signatures were not valid, though, Bonner was not surprised when his pay came in $2,000 light.
“It’s not [the] fault of Stavros,” said Bonner, who spoke as if he knows the man personally. “This isn’t Stavros trying to scam anybody. I’ll vouch for him any day.”
Instead, Bonner insists the fault lies directly with the collectors who did such a terrible job of confirming their information. “They basically got just any Tom, Dick and Harry to sign the petition, knowing that they weren’t registered to vote or weren’t qualified electors.”
“It failed,” he said. “So that means the client is not going to pay the bonus and he’s not going to pay for the balance of the signatures.”