'Rapid' probe ordered for green energy group

©Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting

AUGUSTA — The head of the state’s accountability agency promised a legislative committee on Friday to “follow the money” as she investigates the $1.1 million grant that went to a now defunct energy group. 

The bipartisan Government Oversight Committee voted unanimously to not only order the probe by the Office of Program and Government Accountability (OPEGA), but to subject it to the “rapid response process.”

OPEGA director Beth Ashcroft explained that means the audit on the Maine Green Energy Alliance will go to the head of the line and other projects will take a little longer to complete.

While she was uncertain how long the study would take, she said many of the documents had already been sent to her by another legislative committee.

She said that she would know within three weeks if she and her staff will need much longer to compete their work.

The initials questions about the grant were raised by the legislature’s Joint Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology following news stories by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting that revealed the Alliance had not met its goals for signing up households for energy audits. 

The Center also reported that the Alliance’s had been founded by attorney Tom Federle, one-time counsel to former Gov. John Baldacci, who had helped the Alliance get the federal stimulus grant. The articles also reported the unusual number of Democratic activists, candidates and lawmakers on the Alliance staff.

The Alliance agreed to return the unspent portion of the grant to the state agency that oversees energy projects, Efficiency Maine Trust.

Following legislative’s rule, the Energy Committee asked the Oversight Committee to direct OPEGA to conduct the audit of the Alliance.

Ashcroft estimated the Alliance had spent about $500,000 of the grant.

OPEGA was asked to look into three specific areas:

* How the money was spent

* Whether it was spent legally

* Were all the funds were properly accounted for?

The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting is a nonpartisan, nonprofit journalism organization based in Hallowell. Email: mainecenter@gmail.com. Web: pinetreewatchdog.com.

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Comments

 's picture

Mr. Christie, please don't

Mr. Christie, please don't call this a bipartisan committee. This is another republican witchhunt, which is desperate to find some sort of impropiaty to condemn. They've been attacking virtually all government entities, hoping beyond hope to find something. And like most witchhunts, they usually find a little something just to justify themselves. But don't call it bipartisan.

Kevin Murphy's picture

"Mr. Christie, please don't call this a bipartisan committee."

Actually there are 5 Democrats and 5 Republicans on the committee counting both the House and Senate representatives. Appears to be fairly bipartisan to me.

 's picture

Mr. Murphy, you failed to

Mr. Murphy, you failed to mention that BOTH chairs of the committee are republicans, and eveyone knows the chairs control the investigations and agendas. So don't just state facts you like to make up, because it confirms you don't know what you're talking about.

Edward S Phillips 's picture

Mr Breton afraid

What are scared of. Did you get some of the money?
When Democrats have an investigation they call it justified.
When Republicans have one it is a Witch hunt.
In the mean time the poor who were to get weatherized got shafted.

 's picture

I am not frightened of

I am not frightened of anything. Legislative oversight is a good thing. But in their typical fashion, the republicans have embarked on an determine abuse of the system to try and find wrongdoing. As has been demostrated time after time, no one abuses the system more than republicans, from legislative investigations, to the petition process.

Kevin Murphy's picture

Abuse of system

"As has been demonstrated time after time, no one abuses the system more than republicans,"

Can you back this statement up or is this just inflammatory rhetoric? Maybe there's a tally sheet somewhere. Please post it so we can see the current score.

 's picture

Look at the evidence, Mr.

Look at the evidence, Mr. Murphy. The numerous TABOR referendums, the "people vetoes' and the most pernicious, spending upwards of $50,000 on behalf of clean election candidates. Before you have a snit, these are all legal, but the all violate the spirit of the laws. Which is one reason that while I think a recall provision would be useful to have in this state, if enacted every democratic governor from now on would be subjected to a recall vote every year. After all the republicans have demonstrated that they can easily pay for and signature campaign they want.

Edward S Phillips 's picture

Abuse of System

I suppose the Democrates use of the weatherizing money was not abuse of the system. Typical of them to blame some one else and cast distractions of the real issue.

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