A board that oversees boxing and mixed martial arts events in Maine has failed to submit annual reports on its activity to the Legislature as required by state law.
The Combat Sports Authority of Maine has come under scrutiny after a national civil rights group last week called for the resignation of its chairman, Hal Pierce, for alleged anti-Muslim posts on his personal Facebook page.
As of Friday afternoon, the governor’s office was still looking into the allegations from the Council on American-Islamic Relations about posts on Pierce’s Facebook page, according to spokeswoman Lindsay Crete.
The governor appoints board members to the Combat Sports Authority of Maine, which was created by state law to regulate and promote boxing and mixed martial arts in the state. The board was established by the Legislature in June 2009 to ensure that all mixed martial arts and professional boxing exhibitions, events, performances and contests are safely regulated and controlled.
Public records show Pierce is in his second three-year term on the board. He was appointed by former Gov. Paul LePage, and his current term expires in 2021. He was elected chairman by other members of the board in July 2018.
Multiple attempts to reach Pierce in recent days have been unsuccessful. He has not responded to voicemail messages left at the Combat Sports Authority’s Portland office, emails, or messages left on his personal phone.
The Combat Sports Authority of Maine is required to file an annual report each year by March 15 to the Legislature’s Innovation, Development, Economic Advancement and Business Committee. The report on the board’s activities “must include an evaluation of the authority’s success in meeting the goals, outcomes and performance expectations contained in its business plan, as well as a summary of the revenue and expenditures,” according to the 2009 statute creating the new governing body.
The board’s most recent annual report was submitted in 2012, according to documents supplied to the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram by its secretary, Bill Bouffard, who was chairman of the board until 2013. Bouffard also supplied annual draft reports dated 2014 and 2016 but said he is not certain whether they were ever submitted by the board’s chairmen at the time.
The state, however, has no record of any reports from the Combat Sports Authority of Maine, according to Samuel Senft of the nonpartisan Office of Policy and Legal Analysis. Senft said the Legislative Law Library also found nothing on file regarding the CSAM.
It is unclear whether there is any penalty for the board’s failing to submit annual reports.
The Combat Sports Authority of Maine receives no state funding. It is funded by 5 percent of ticket sales from its events, according to former chairman Ken Curtis. Board members receive a $35 per diem for any event or meeting for which their attendance is required, according to the bylaws posted on the agency’s website. They are also eligible to receive mileage and expense allowances. Rates are established by the state Controller’s Office.
On its website, the board lists Pierce as its chairman, Bouffard as secretary, Chris Guild as treasurer, and Misty Guild and Jon Pinette as board members. Two board seats are vacant, according to the website.
The board typically meets once a month or every other month, according to minutes supplied by Bouffard, who also supplied the Press Herald/Sunday Telegram with detailed yearly budgets and accounting for revenue and expenses. Among topics of discussion in 2019 were promoters arranging corner people for unaffiliated fighters, crowded locker rooms and proposed kickboxing rules and regulations.
The board most recently met Oct. 7 in Westbrook.
“We are a small group of very hard-working Mainers that have tried to keep professional combat sports rolling in Maine,” Bouffard wrote in an email. “Many hours, no pay, somewhat frequent turnover. Don’t only paint the bad picture. There’s a lot of good work done by very few individuals on their own dime and time.”
Bouffard said most of CSAM’s revenue goes to the Maine Office of the Attorney General to pay for legal counsel regarding rule making and consultation about sports under the board’s purview. He said MMA and boxing events don’t bring in a lot of money, and the board manages “just enough to keep us afloat.”
In regard to allegations regarding Pierce, the board’s chairman, the anti-Muslim posts cited by the Council on American-Islamic Relations are not publicly visible on his Facebook page.
Ibrahim Hooper, the spokesman for CAIR, said screenshots of posts allegedly found on Pierce’s Facebook page were sent to his organization anonymously. CAIR has not attempted to contact Pierce, but Hooper said he personally contacted the office of Gov. Janet Mills to make her aware.
“As far as I know, he (Pierce) has not denied that the screenshots are his,” Hooper said.
One post cited by CAIR included the word “infidel” over an American flag and an image of bacon that said, “Pork Fact #76: People who eat bacon are less likely to blow themselves up.” Another shared the conspiracy theory that Muslim refugees are entering the United States to “kill all those who do not submit to Islam.”
Bobby Russo, owner of the Portland Boxing Club, has held pro boxing matches at the Portland Expo that must be sanctioned by the Combat Sports Authority. He said Pierce comes to his gym “about once a week probably and comes in and does a workout. I’ve found him to be a nice guy and I’ve never heard him say anything racist.”
Russo also related an incident more than a year ago in which Pierce donated a few hundred dollars in cash.
“We have a lot of immigrant kids who come in,” Russo said. “He knows those guys don’t really pay any dues. He said this is for the immigrant kids who don’t pay any dues, for whatever they need, headgear or whatever.”
Bouffard said Pierce never said or did anything racist in the presence of Combat Sports Authority board members.
“We would not have tolerated it,” Bouffard wrote. “And I also don’t believe that’s who Hal is. I think he made a bad choice. And has to deal with it. Hal has only been on the board a couple years and has actually tried hard to pick up the pieces and bring it all back together.”