McCormick resigns from MaineHousing

Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

Dale McCormick, executive director of MaineHousing, resigned Tuesday. While some Republicans praised the decision, McCormick, a Democrat, said she resigned to end months of "rancor" and allow the agency to get back to its mission.

AUGUSTA — The MaineHousing Board of Directors unanimously accepted Executive Director Dale McCormick's resignation Tuesday. The resignation will become effective March 31.

The board went into executive session Tuesday morning. Members then came out and voted unanimously on "an employment matter," but didn't make clear what that was until the public announcement of McCormick's resignation was made early in the afternoon.

In a formal statement, McCormick announced that she was leaving her post "in order to bring an end to the current rancor," and that the MSHA "board and I have concluded that it is in the best interest of the Housing Authority and the people of Maine.”

Under the terms of her separation agreement, McCormick will receive severance pay equal to one year of her most recent base salary, or $101,520. She and her dependents will receive health coverage through September 2013.

McCormick has been under scrutiny since last year, when the Maine Heritage Policy Center requested detailed information on how the agency was spending its money. The scrutiny, which McCormick characterized Tuesday as a "systematic attack that's grounded the important work of the agency almost to a halt," has intensified in recent months.

She and her agency have been the subject of frequent criticism by state Treasurer Bruce Poliquin and Gov. Paul LePage’s newly appointed MaineHousing board members, who have questioned the high cost of housing units handled by the agency, among other things.

McCormick was not available for comment after the meeting. 

Poliquin, one of her most persistent critics, said Tuesday that McCormick's departure was for the best. The treasurer cited McCormick's "social engineering" agenda as a significant policy difference that clashed with the LePage administration and its newly appointed board members.

The ideological clash has been on full display over the last six months. Poliquin, MHPC and newly appointed board chairman Peter Anastos have frequently and publicly questioned McCormick's leadership and her fiscal stewardship of a quasi-public agency that administers millions in state and federal dollars and then funnels it to developers for affordable housing projects.

Over that time McCormick's opponents have waged a public relations war that included criticism of her green-lighting affordable housing projects that focused on costly renovations, infill development, energy efficiency and other green initiatives.  

MHPC also deployed its news agency to raise myriad questions about McCormick's guidance of the agency, at times attempting to establish parallels between MaineHousing and the scandal that rocked the Maine Turnpike Authority last year.

The group has published 35 posts about MaineHousing. An image of McCormick also appears on the site's homepage. 

Anastos, the MaineHousing board chairman, said Tuesday that he didn't believe McCormick was involved in a turnpike-like scandal. However, he was glad that she decided to leave. He said her policies had unnecessarily driven up the costs of affordable housing projects.

"It's obvious we were heading in different directions and we all think — I think we all think — that it was in the best interest of the state of Maine to make a change," he said.

Anastos later added that the severance deal had been in the works over the last week.

Late last year, an investigation into MaineHousing was initiated by Republicans on the Legislature's Government Oversight Committee. The investigation is still ongoing.

One of the criticisms of the agency is that the director does not answer to the governor. LePage's power to expel the director, who is the fiduciary of a bank-like agency with $1.6 billion in outstanding bonds, is statutorily limited.

To be removed, the director must commit fraud or steal. Or demonstrate fiscal malfeasance. Even then, only the board has that removal authority.

A bill submitted by Sen. Jon Courtney, R-Springvale, earlier this session would allow the quasi-governmental agency’s board of directors to fire the director without cause. The bill would not have grandfathered McCormick, who was appointed in 2005 by Gov. John Baldacci.

After McCormick's resignation was announced, Lance Dutson, chief executive officer of MHPC, issued a statement that "the resignation of Ms. McCormick is the first step toward a long-needed review of MSHA operations, and we look forward to working with the new leadership to help restore faith in the agency."

Board member Donald Gean rejected claims that McCormick stepped down because of the intense scrutiny. 

"I think she could put up with that forever," Gean said. "Her resignation has been done in an effort to put the agency back together. This has taken a hell of a toll on the staff here. I think she basically sacrificed herself to basically put an end to it and let these good people get back to work."

Gean agreed with McCormick that the campaign against her was a systematic effort to remove her.

"It started the day the new board showed up," he said. "It's not that they're evil people. They have a totally different agenda and systematically they've been pushing it forward." 

He added, "Now with Dale out of the way, we'll find out what their (policy) agenda is. So far it's been get rid of Dale."

Peter Merrill, the agency's communications director, has been named acting director until a new director is appointed.

smistler@sunjournal.com

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Comments

 's picture

McCormic

I don't wonder why Ms. McCormic resigned. The damn republicans want to take over every state in the country. They want things their way and if it's not their way it's the highway. How can any state get ahead with Republicans in office anyway, most politicians have to be crooks to get into the office they hold, how can anyone expect them to be honest after they're elected? They blame the crisis that the states are in on Obama, when it was George W. Bush that started it all to begin with.

 's picture

employment

looks like another relative of our beloved dictator must need a job. i think instead of attending the national governors conference (and snubbing the president who, like the NAACP appears to be black) he would have been better off visiting the ex governor of Illinois at his new residence which is where our governor belongs.

 's picture

What a disapointment. I am

What a disapointment. I am sorry to see her go. I was hoping she would demonstrate enough character to bear up to the scrutiny. I don't think the board was head hunting. They were elected to trim all gov in bad times.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Here they go again...

Let me reiterate, I have no love loss for Democrats, Republicans and Independents. I do however observe them. Its almost comical.Personally I could care less if they all beat each other to death right there in the state house.
What gets me is their mentalities. The Republicans seem to think their the cavalry, coming to solve every problem since the Civil War. Well they can't do it, simple as that.
The Democrats don't have anyone with the Kahona's to stand up to the Republicans. Which is exactly what the Republicans need. They need to be put in function mode, and taken out of attack mode.
It just seems to me that if everyone took the energy it takes to fight the other party, and put it into working on what needs to be done. Something positive could be accomplished by the end of the session.
If that can't be accomplished, by all means keep going the way your going. It saves me time. I don't need to read the comics.

AL PELLETIER's picture

Case in point, Frank

Many important issues left before the end of the session and Lapage is off to Jamaica. His whole political agenda reads like a comic book. Missing mural, Kiss my Butt, Women with little beards, $40K Daughter, $68K Brother-in-law, and on and on. Hey, it least he gives me something to write about!

 's picture

How Much Good News Can One Stand

First ole Baldacci is not running now this plus the early spring weather HOW can it get any better?!

Its truly a taxpayers dream almost come true Bring on the election and the end or an error

GARY SAVARD's picture

Another Baldacci era

Another Baldacci era political hack out the door.

DONALD FERLAND's picture

And who will LePage nominate

And who will LePage nominate for that position...probably another family member....I sure hope democrats raise a stink about the inproprieties of LePage's guys....Poliquin, violating the constitution....Summers, for the appearance of a lack of ethics....etc

Mike Lachance's picture

Tina, we just got rid of a

Tina, we just got rid of a stink... and it wouldnt surprise me if the dmes raised a new one.

And whats this about the "appearance" of a lack of ethics?

I'd say McCormick has more than an "appearance" herself... she needed to go. For all the reasons stated in this article from both sides.

DONALD FERLAND's picture

Mike, the appearance I am

Mike, the appearance I am speaking about is Charlie Summers, Secretary of State, who oversees the election process and accepted the signatures of other candidates running for Senator Snowe's seat. While I have no problem with him running (he hasn't gotten elected any other time he has run) he should not be the one to oversee the signatures nor the election process as a part of his job. It just raises many ethical questions should a disagreement arise. It allows the opportunity to raise many questions should any of the signatures be discounted for any reason. Ethically I would think he would stand a better chance if he were to step down from the Secretary of State position just as I would feel the same way about ANY person holding that position.

 's picture

The reason it "clashed" is

The reason it "clashed" is because Dale McCormick has a brain in her head and LePage doesn't!!!! We are losing someone very important when
Dale resigns!!! Very sad to see her go!!

 's picture

Two words

Good ridance.

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