Augusta lobbyist Cheryl Timberlake, left, sits next to her lawyer, Avery Day, during a Maine Ethics Commission hearing in Augusta on Oct. 31, 2017, as she is cross-examined by Thimi Mina, an attorney for a company run by developer Shawn Scott, who is behind the York County casino bid on Maine's ballot next week.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Under a proposed settlement, backers of a failed 2017 casino referendum would pay only a fifth of the record $500,000 in penalties assessed by Maine’s ethics watchdog, which says an offshore residence would make it “extremely challenging” to get the full amount.

The agreement between the Maine Ethics Commission and groups run by the sister of Northern Mariana Islands casino developer Shawn Scott is confidential until it is signed, but the commission said in a Tuesday filing that it would reduce the penalties to $100,000. Commissioners will vote on approving it at a Wednesday meeting in Augusta.

In November, the commission levied the record penalties on four groups led by Scott’s sister, Lisa Scott — who lives in the Caribbean nation of Saint Kitts and Nevis — for late campaign finance reporting. Scott disclosed in April 2017 that $4.3 million originally attributed to her in filings actually came from a company run by her brother and a Japanese consulting company.

Offshore connections and the state probe dominated the headlines around Question 1 on last year’s ballot, which would have given a Shawn Scott-linked company sole rights to a casino in York County. It was defeated by a record margin, with 83 percent of Maine voters opposing it.

Both Scott and Cheryl Timberlake, a lobbyist who served as treasurer for one of the committees, sued the commission in Superior Court to overturn the penalties. In a memo, Jonathan Wayne, the commission’s executive director, told commissioners that Lisa Scott’s offshore residence would make it “extremely challenging” to recoup the full amount and she doesn’t appear to own any U.S. assets.

“Under the circumstances, it would not be a good use of public resources to pursue a collection action that is so unlikely to succeed,” Wayne wrote.

A $100,000 fine would still be twice the amount of Maine’s record campaign finance penalty, assessed against the National Organization for Marriage for just over $50,000 in 2014 after a five-year investigation finding that the anti-gay marriage group shielded the names of its donors.

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Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...