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Ex-state senator admits campaign woes drove resignation

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A former Republican state senator was ordered to repay more than $5,000 over campaign misspending that he told regulators led to his abrupt resignation in 2015.

The amount owed by ex-Sen. Branden Petersen of Andover is a combination of funds improperly used on personal expenses as well as civil penalties for violations found by the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board. Petersen's penalty was announced Thursday.

Petersen didn't immediately return a phone message and has receded from politics since stepping down two years ago. His troubles came to the attention of campaign finance regulators weeks before he stepped down when his report was flagged for $6,000 in questionable expenses. The problems uncovered spanned several years.

Petersen initially sought help in reconciling problems, which included lump sum payments and cash withdrawals from a campaign account.

According to the findings, Petersen told the board he believed he was claiming proper reimbursements for mileage, communications expenses and other costs of serving. Some but not all of those expenses were determined to be valid. Petersen said he had trouble with record keeping and the financial woes compounded.

The report says Petersen admitted the campaign finance problem "was the primary reason why he resigned from the Senate 14 months before his term ended." He had already decided against a reelection bid in 2016.

Besides the improper expenses, he was cited for filing false reports, failing to maintain proper records and taking too much money from certain sources.

Petersen has 18 months to pay the fine or he could face additional actions by the state attorney general.