Now there is something that one can hang their hat on!
See a lot of the stuff we just hate but connectivity to a staute,policy , procedure is a real key.
Whether there should be or what not there is a difference between inappropriate ,unnecessary etc. etc. and violation of specific statutes.
Just for all who want to yell this is not a defense of any of it but it is what will win in media eventually ! Possibly in other venues also!
Sent this email to my legislators....
I am still following the performance of the Maine State Housing Authority employees, and offer the following thoughts for your consideration.
“Former director of Maine State Housing Authority (MSHA) Dale McCormick and one of her employees used their personal credit cards to make over $170,000 in purchases for MSHA, racking up cash rewards and airline miles for themselves, according to a report from the Office of Program and Governmental Accountability (OPEGA).
The OPEGA report uncovered the practice at MaineHousing, and since McCormick’s resignation in March, MSHA has put a stop to the questionable method of purchasing.
According to the report, in just five years McCormick was reimbursed $44,028 from MaineHousing, “most of which appear to have been charged on her personal credit card,” according to OPEGA, despite the availability of two company credit cards.
The OPEGA report also found that the MaineHousing IT director used a rewards-style Visa credit card for $127,000 in purchases, which could have resulted in as much as $1,270 or more in cash rewards or other points or gifts.”
“It is unclear if MaineHousing will seek reimbursement from McCormick or the IT Director for any rewards or cash received as a result of the frequent and excessive use of their personal credit cards.”
My comments delivered 6/8 to the Government Oversight Committee (GOC) during the public comment period (scroll down for that).
My sense that the sentiment of the GOC following the meeting on 6/08/12 was to wait for the full OPEGA report due later in the year before taking any action.
It is my opinion that there is no reason for the former MSHA director and the current IT director not to make voluntary restitution to the taxpayers for any personal gain from the use of personal credit cards that produced sky miles, cash rewards or any other tangible benefits. That would be just, professional and reasonable conduct on their part.
Public comment to Government Oversight Committee
June 8, 2012
Representative Burns – Co-chair:
Members of the Government Oversight Committee.
I was born in Bath, Maine and currently live in Jefferson. I am retired and my wife and I live on a fixed income.
I have been following the ongoing stories associated with the Maine State Housing Authority ever since the newly appointed board began questioning the $300,000 cost of housing units for the ‘needy’.
The subsequent revelations of expenditures of my tax dollars discovered by the ongoing OPEGA review causes me to be here to express my extreme disappointment with the wasteful distribution of funds by the Maine State Housing Authority. My tax dollars have been expended in ways that never benefited the intended end user…those Maine families in need of assistance with housing.
Some examples gleaned from the Maine Wire:
MaineHousing has spent $2,258,427 on marketing and advertising since 1998; a totally unnecessary expense given the standing waiting list of over 6000 families waiting for MSHA benefits.
In 2010, Maine Housing spent more than $26,000 on catering services. Maine Housing has spent thousands of dollars dining out, including nearly $2,000 in 2010 with the Vickerey Café, a small lunch restaurant around the corner from Maine Housing headquarters in Augusta.
The list of these types of expenditures is extensive, and apparently increasing; you folks are more aware of the details than I am.
There are two catagories of expenses that are of particular concern to me.
1. Carbon Credit Trading:
Maine Housing has paid consultants hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop a process to quantify the amount of carbon saved when a home is weatherized. Maine Houising paid Lee International more than $370,000 over the last three years to help develop the project, which has thus far generated no revenue. Maine Housing has also spent millions of dollars on a computer tracking system to facilitate the carbon quantification project.
Board chair Peter Anastos estimated the total expenditures to be nearly $6 million.
I found this statement in a recent media report:
“Stanford Law School professor and environmental scholar Michael Wara is quoted in a Bloomberg Businessweek article as referring to the Maine Housing carbon deal as a “deceptive marketing claim” — one in which Chevrolet will get credit for the Maine Housing weatherization carbon reduction but that “the government financed most of it.”
I don’t believe Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere causes global warming.
That is why the term “global warming” has fallen into disuse. If you want to be current, you use the term “climate change”.
Nonetheless - Those are my tax dollars in play in the carbon market…millions of them… I want the Carbon project cancelled and I want my money back.
2. Use of personal credit cards.
Incredibly the former director and some senior staff members have used their personal credit cards to make purchases for Maine Housing.
“Former director of Maine State Housing Authority (MSHA) Dale McCormick and one of her employees used their personal credit cards to make over $170,000 in purchases for MSHA, racking up cash rewards and airline miles for themselves, according to a report from the Office of Program and Governmental Accountability (OPEGA).”
“The OPEGA report also found that the Maine Housing IT director used a rewards-style Visa credit card for $127,000 in purchases, which could have resulted in as much as $1,270 or more in cash rewards or other points or gifts.”
According to OPEGA, the excessive use of personal credit cards opened the door for “personal gain” by McCormick and the other employee, “in the form of cash back, points and other rewards.”
If it can be shown that the former director and the current IT director have enjoyed personal gain at taxpayer expense…I expect charges to be filed.
By keeping my commentary brief, you may have missed the emotional flavor….let me say this: I am totally ripped to think I can’t stay at home and trust public servants not to squander our tax dollars in these stressful economic times. I would like you to send a crystal clear message to the rest of the state of Maine public servants who may be part of that same culture.
That concludes my comments. If there are no questions, I will stand down.
Thank you for listening to me.
Spider - well done.
McCormick and Breitner should make restitution to MSHA for any financial gains they reaped by using personal credit cards instead of the agency credit cards, for all the years they were/are employed by the agency.
It's unfortunate that there is likely no recourse for the millions squandered on the carbon credit scheme, the disastrous inspection scandals, and the green energy equipment boondoggles.
BUREAU OF HUMAN RESOURCES
HUMAN RESOURCES POLICY AND PRACTICES MANUAL
6.5 ACCEPTING GIFTS
It is against State policy for an employee to accept gifts from any person or business that conducts business, or expects to conduct business, with the State of Maine.
Further, it is unlawful (Title 17-A M.R.S.A. Sections 602, 604, 605 and 606) for persons or businesses to give gifts to State employees and for State employees to accept gifts that are intended to improperly influence the State employees in the exercise of their duties.
For the purpose of administrative guidance, gifts do not include advertising items of nominal value such as calendars, pens, or pencils. However, goods and services which involve a pecuniary benefit should be considered to be gifts.
I'd like to see somebody who could prove that airline miles and cash rewards did not confer a "pecuniary benefit" to McCormick and Breitner.
1. Of or relating to money: a pecuniary loss; pecuniary motives.
2. Requiring payment of money: a pecuniary offense.
[Latin pecnirius, from pecnia, property, wealth; see peku- in Indo-European roots.]
Well done, Spider.
Do not want backroom deals preempting orange jumpsuit, as another posted. GOP cannot compromise with Dems, no matter what is offered. Make average joe remember which is party of graft.
Technical question - are they considered state employees as they work for a quasi or are they considered quasi employees thus the statute MIGHT not apply?
Robert I believe they would be since they can belong to Retirement and funding is sourced from State general fund.
I would also says since Gov. could have terminated the director would support that claim.
As much as I would like to see it in one way ,there is a danger here of premature wishes for a "orange jumpsuit".
The very fact as reported the words of caution and concern from the committee on the rapid report alone indicates a slow and methodical approach is warranted.
I doubt we will see a final report before November,and any anticipated action by AG office there after.
The issues are starting to get traction outside of our sphere and that needs to continue aftr=er all what else does the opposition have aug the moment?
It is good she is gone, changes implemented to heighten accountability,which I am not sure are sufficient enough yet need also to be done.
Of the many issues if we are going to have quasi anything the over site and control has to be extremely tight.
Could you see that coming from the legislature this session ?
List any of them who stood up and said no to any project in their districts carried out by MSHA. I bet there is probably pictures of groundbreakings etc. that speak volumes.