Somewhere between fraud and vindication

Now that the dust has settled from Friday’s release of the state’s Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability report on MaineHousing, let’s just all take a deep breath.

Whether you categorize the zeal to oust former MSMA Director Dale McCormick as a witch-hunt or simple public accountability, we must acknowledge that the OPEGA review of MaineHousing was appropriate. Review of any public spending at any state agency or quasi-agency is always appropriate.

Early this year, while taxpayers were still reeling from disclosures of fraud at the Maine Turnpike Authority, OPEGA was directed by legislators to look into the operations and spending practices of MaineHousing.

We supported that call for review, having ourselves questioned per unit spending for some MaineHousing projects, including Birch Hill Apartments in Lewiston.

Some of those apartments, built at a cost of $225,000 per unit a couple of years ago, are falling apart. Some of the units were poorly designed, without adequate heat in bathrooms used by elderly residents.

At such cost, public housing projects should be sound and residents living there should be safe and warm.

While we don’t condone the back-room dealings of Treasurer Bruce Poliquin or the Maine Heritage Policy Center to do-all-possible to oust then-Director McCormick before knowing if she was even doing anything wrong, we did and do support review of state agency – all agencies – spending.

As former Sen. David Trahan, R-Waldoboro, said: “No one should be afraid of an OPEGA review.”

McCormick was not afraid, and said so — before she resigned. And, since the review has been complete she has thanked her supporters for their, well, support.

According to the report, OPEGA found that “substantially all” of the $4.3 million MSHA expenses under review were “generally consistent with its mission and primary activities.”

That’s close to “all of the $4.3 million MSHA expenses are consistent with its mission and primary activities,” but it’s definitely not a finding that all is right. It is a finding that there are some questions, and certain spending concerns need to be addressed.

Let’s face it. MaineHousing was living pretty posh, with thousands of dollars in gift cards given to employees to compensate for lack of raises, and meals and massages at frequent training sessions. That’s not exactly the austerity that exists in other state agencies or in the financially-strapped private sector.

Was there fraud at MaineHousing? No.

Was an examination of its spending practices worthwhile? Absolutely.

And it’s not over.

Friday’s release was an initial report, part one of an ongoing review.

On June 8, the Government Oversight Committee will host a public hearing on the OPEGA report as it considers a deeper investigation at MSHA.

There is, as many Republicans have already said, no comparison between the fraud perpetrated by Paul Violette at MTA and McCormick’s spending traits at MaineHousing.

However, there does appear to be a fair amount of money slushing around at MaineHousing for such things as donations to certain public interest groups and high-priced hotel rooms at conference venues.

It’s not fraud. But it’s not vindication either.

jmeyer@sunjournal.com

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.

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Comments

CRYSTAL WARD's picture

No laws broken

So no fraud, no laws broken, some people did not like what was done at the MHA before Dale took office and during her term. MHPC , LePage and Poliquin manufactured and promoted the Red Scare tactics to push out Dale M. I wonder who will be next on the hit list . I am sure the new regime at MHA will build so many low income houses across the state that 1000's will be put to work ASAP.
Or will the Housing money now get some new "creative" uses ?

Steve  Dosh's picture

Somewhere between fraud and vindication

ed., 12.30-.14:30 hst • 
Whelp . " And it’s not over. "
Somewhere between fraud and vindication ?
That's probably big enough to drive a Mack ® truck through , like Rt. 95 and the forthcoming Maine State tool booth system audit
ßuena Suerté /s Steve Dosh , former Ombudsman

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

Fact are simple.

No illegal, unwarranted, or abusive spending was found. No reasonable belief ever existed that any problem would be found. That a coordinated effort to purge the Housing Authority of competent, professional management was obvious from the beginning. That's a witchhunt. Poliquin and LePage must be held accountable.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Yeah, let's burn them at the

Yeah, let's burn them at the stake instead of McCormick!!!

AL PELLETIER's picture

Increadable!

And Clinton didn't leave a stain on the blue dress---until it was found? Jonathan, I don't care for Lepage and Poliquin either but McCormick's outlandish spending of our tax dollars is ridiculous and may still be illegal.

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

What outlandish spending

A Witch hunt is a Witch hunt. Nothing suggests McCormick did anything illegal or even wrong. May be 8 out of ten people would not have spent money they way she did; doesn't mean a thing.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

If her spending was

If her spending was consistent with what only 20% of people would have spent, that means a hell of a lot.

AL PELLETIER's picture

"they way she did"?

Dah! You must have been on her payroll or she's a relative or your lover, or perhaps I'm getting into a pissing contest with a man who is down wind. Good Night!

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

Nice try Al

Think I met her once back 20 years or more ago. Wouldn't recognize her if I saw her. But I do recognize partisan political criminality by the current LePage administration.

AL PELLETIER's picture

Sleazy at best.

Yesterday's "Maine Wire" (online) has a more detailed review of MSHA spending for the past eight years.
There are many spending practices that lead me to believe that McCormick's oversight of the MSHA was sleazy at best and not consistent with reasonable stewardship of public funds. Had she not stepped down, I believe OPEGA found enough evidence of improper use of public funds to get her fired. I'm also quite sure further investigation may result in an indictment being sought.

Bob Woodbury's picture

I believe...

...what was said in the editorial and in your reply could be said of ANY governmental and indeed, non-governmental agency (a newspaper, for example).

Steve  Dosh's picture

ßob, 12.05.30 14:35 hst •

ßob, 12.05.30 14:35 hst •
No ?
Poat a picture . It's E Z to do . A N Y one can
/s Steve

Steve  Dosh's picture

all, In fact , today's

all,
In fact , today's Memorial Day the 31st , not the 30th , even here in Hawai'i
Speaking of yellow journalism , let's motor on over to Mayor MacDonald's semi-sorta' kinda' a newspaper -->
http://www.twincitytimes.com <- ( not an endorsement ) , and see what type of wool they are trying to pull over our eyes t o d a y /s, Steve :)

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

What does McDonald have to do

What does McDonald have to do with McCormick's quagmire, Steve. He's been laying pretty low; being a well behaved Mayor so far. Why is that bad?

AL PELLETIER's picture

Yummy

Hey Pirate, I think the Hawaiian Dosh Man has sucked down too many volcanoes.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Agreed, Al. Putting too much

Agreed, Al. Putting too much poi in the pinapple Kool-Aid.

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