January 21, 2013

Court approves sale of former Maine lawmaker's restaurant

A judge has ordered the foreclosure on former state Rep. John Martin's Tamarack Inn in Eagle Lake.

By NAOMI SCHALIT and JOHN CHRISTIE Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting

A taxpayer-funded agency is about to foreclose on a restaurant and bar owned by former state Rep. John Martin and a partner -- unless they come up with $232,000 by the end of March.

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John Martin, one of Maine's most recognizable political figures, says that he'll find the money to save the Tamarack Inn from foreclosure.


That's how much they owe on loans from the Northern Maine Development Commission.

A judge has ordered the foreclosure and sale of the Tamarack Inn in Eagle Lake as well as another Martin property used as collateral for the loans.

The Northern Maine Development Commission is funded by the federal, state and local governments.

The foreclosure order includes a 90-day grace period during which Martin and his partner can exercise their "Right of Redemption" and keep the properties if they can pay off the loan.

Martin, one of Maine's most recognizable political figures, says that he'll find the money.

"I'm making progress and we're going to be buying it out," Martin said in a brief telephone interview he ended by hanging up.

But Duane Walton, director of business finance for the commission, said last week, "They were going to try to secure the money elsewhere and, as far as I know, that's not happened. Mr. Martin has made several appointments to come in and talk with us and has not followed through with those appointments."

Asked if he'd ever had a customer in this stage of foreclosure save their property by paying off the loan, Walton said, "I've not had one yet come in and exercise their Right of Redemption and pay us off."

Martin and partner Timmy Soucie owe the commission almost $232,000 in loans and interest on the Tamarack Inn. On July 12, the commission filed a complaint for foreclosure with the Superior Court in Aroostook County, amended two weeks later.

Martin and Soucie formed Tamarack Hill Inc., which owns the restaurant, in 2008. In court documents, the commission said that both Martin and Soucie took out commercial loans for the business in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Martin and Soucie each provided personal guarantees for the loans. Martin secured his guarantee with mortgages on property he owns in Eagle Lake, including the old Post Office Building. The Tamarack Inn restaurant property, at 3346 Aroostook Road, was also used as collateral by the partners for some of the loans.

Soucie, when reached at the Tamarack Inn, said "No comment."

At the end of the grace period, Walton said, "We'll be setting the sale date. The redemption expires the end of March; we'll go to a public sale in no less than 30 and no more than 45 days."

Until the property goes up for sale, Walton said, Martin and Soucie's business can continue to operate.

Martin has a history of financial troubles, including delinquency in his local, state and federal taxes. He also defaulted on guarantees he made on a loan made by the Finance Authority of Maine to a business in which he was a partner. After the court found him in default, Martin settled the debt for $20,000 of the almost $22,000 owed to the state agency.

Martin's current financial troubles also include the bankruptcy of an Eagle Lake convenience store and gas station he owns with another partner. A $250,000 debt to Irving Oil and almost $50,000 in debts to others forced that business into Chapter 11 earlier this year.

Last fall, a bankruptcy judge allowed Martin and his partner to buy back the store for less than half the debt -- $125,000. The proceeding is in its last stage -- determining the distribution of the funds to the creditors.

And in a stunning and unexpected end to his legislative career, Martin was defeated in his bid for re-election this past November.

Martin had served 46 years in the House and Senate, and ruled an unprecedented 10 terms as speaker of the House. His autocratic style and long hold on the speakership was considered a major factor in the 1993 success of a ballot initiative to impose term limits on lawmakers.

The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting is a nonpartisan, non-profit news service based in Hallowell.

Email: mainecenter@gmail.com

Web: pinetreewatchdog.org

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