AUGUSTA, Maine — A Princeton man running as an independent candidate for the District 29 Maine Senate seat is in hot water with the Maine ethics commission.

Dana Kadey, 64, who has been a minister, teacher and U.S. customs officer as well as a candidate for public office, was ordered Tuesday by the commission to pay back more than $2,000 to the Maine Clean Election Act fund for purchases that the commission deemed personal.

At issue are a GPS device, truck cap with roof rack and a portable cooler that Kadey bought using public election funds.

Kadey will be on the ballot on Nov. 4 along with incumbent Kevin Raye, R-Perry, and Karen Johnson, D-Machias.

During a telephone interview with the Bangor Daily News on Tuesday, Kadey denied any wrongdoing.

“I was concerned that if I purchased those three items in question with my own money I would be contributing to the election,” which he said was a violation of the ethics commission’s rules.

The candidate said he had nothing to hide and that was why he listed the items in his financial report to the commission. “I would rather be damned by doing it right out in the open, have it in my report, have the receipts and have them deny it rather than buy it out of my own personal funds hoping they don’t find out,” he said.

But the staff and members of the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices didn’t agree.

The law prohibits candidates spending public funds on personal items, and if they do they must sell the items at fair market value and reimburse the clean election fund, according to a staff report submitted to the ethics panel.

In a letter both mailed and e-mailed to Kadey on Tuesday, the panel found that the purchases Kadey had made were indeed personal. Among the purchases:

ä $414.94 for a GPS device.

ä $1,363.95 for a truck cap with roof rack.

ä $188.10 for a portable cooler.

He also reimbursed himself $109.62 for 261 miles of travel to purchase the truck cap.

Kadey was given two weeks to pay the state back a total of $2,076.61.

On his Web site, Kadey said he was running for the state Senate because Maine residents had one of the highest tax burdens in the U.S. “My goal as a state senator is to lighten Maine’s tax burden,” he said.

In 2006, Kadey walked 150 miles across Washington County carrying a 28-pound rock on his back to draw attention to his point that “Maine’s tax burden is too heavy.”

In defense of his most recent purchases, Kadey, who was born and raised in Princeton, told the commission that he bought the GPS system because Washington County was so large. “Last election I spent tens of hours and hundreds of miles lost while on the trail,” he said. Since purchasing the GPS system, Kadey noted, he has not been lost.

He said he had bought the truck cap because of health issues.

Kadey said Tuesday that he suffered from a disease that was destroying his kidneys. He began his chemotherapy and other treatments in 2003. It appeared that the disease was in remission until last year when he said it flared up again. He said the disease sapped his energy and the truck cap was necessary because he had placed a mattress in his truck so he could take naps. “When I campaign … I might have to travel 100 miles one way and I have to have a place where I can lie down,” he said.

The candidate also noted that he had purchased the portable cooler because of his medical condition.

Addressing Kadey’s health issues, the commission staff report said that if a candidate chose to run with a medical condition, it was up to the candidate to pay for any related measures from his own funds rather than through MCEA funds. “In order to establish that a purchase was made for campaign-related purposes, a candidate should be able to show more than a tenuous relationship to a political campaign. We also do not know what campaign purpose the roof rack would serve,” the report said.

The commission members agreed with the findings of the staff report and ordered Kadey to pay back the money from his own personal funds.

Despite disagreeing with the ruling, Kadey said Tuesday he would pay back the money.

This was not the first time Kadey was ordered to reimburse money to the clean election fund.

In 2006, while a candidate for the same Senate seat, he purchased a high-end laptop computer for $2,928.26. After the election, he sold the computer for $850 to a woman who had performed campaign services for him. Though Kadey returned $850 to the clean election fund, the commission later ordered him to reimburse an additional $691 because the amount he received from the woman did not satisfy the fair-market value requirement of the commission’s rules.

And because of the latest investigation, the commission has decided to re-examine other expenditures from Kadey’s 2006 campaign, including $463.74 that was spent at Cabela’s, a hunting and sporting goods store, for material related to campaign signs. The commission staff noted in its latest report that it was unsure what materials for signs could be purchased at Cabela’s for that amount.

Kadey told the BDN on Tuesday that during the 2006 campaign some of his signs disappeared. He said he bought a motion-sensor camera from Cabela’s to catch the thief. “That was what that was about,” he said. He said he planned to use the camera again this year.