Yearly Archives: 2012

The real harm of discrimination must be exposed

The Sun Journal editorialized about our series on state employee discrimination suits. Here’s an excerpt:

“A Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting investigation, published Dec. 19, revealed the disgraceful behavior and the costly settlement agreements in state government based on its review of public records detailing the accusations and resulting compensation. For instance, taxpayers spent $20,000 to settle a claim made by a state prison worker who was subjected to regular sexual harassment, including being referred to as “Genitalia” instead of her real name, and being asked about her favorite sexual positions. No one should have to endure that degradation, never mind at work and certainly not from fellow corrections officers who most certainly know better.” Continue Reading →

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Finally, a study that looks at whether campaign cash actually influences policy

Clayton Peoples, a lab fellow at Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, specializes in campaign finance and corruption, a subject that most investigative reporters love. He’s done important work looking at actual data linking campaign contributors’  influence over legislation — the kind of influence that many people intuitively believe exists, but an influence that has also suffered from a lack of empirical, fact-based documentation. Take a look at Peoples’ latest blog post, “What Can $6 Billion Buy?” where he concludes: “It is not especially surprising that an analysis of all the bills over an extended period reveals consistent contributor influence. As a lawmaker interviewed by Schram in his 1995 book Speaking Freely put it, “(People) will often look for…the grand-slam example of influence of these interests. Continue Reading →

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The Center hits the road!

We’re not evangelists, but we’re certainly true believers here at the Center about one thing: Journalism’s crucial role in helping citizens hold their government and leaders accountable. Center founders and senior reporters John Christie and Naomi Schalit will be giving a series of talks this winter and spring around the state. Christie and Schalit will discuss the critical connection between journalism and democracy, provide an inside look into how investigative journalism is done and introduce our website, “Be Your Own Watchdog,” that provides readers with investigative reporting tools about state and local government and elections. Schedule: Portland Public Library, Jan. 22 at 5:30 pm; Blue Hill Public Library on Jan. Continue Reading →

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Bad behavior in state workplace costs taxpayers nearly $2m in settlements

One corrections officer spread a false rumor that the new female officer at the state prison in South Windham was a stripper. Another one called her “Genitalia,” instead of her real name, which also began with a “G.”

She was asked by a colleague if he could measure her buttocks. When she said no, he did it anyway. She was asked abouther favorite sexual positions and to describe her breasts. When her complaints were not taken seriously, she quit her job and filed sexual harassment and retaliation complaints against the Department of Corrections with the state Human Rights Commission, detailing what she said happened to her in a sworn statement. Continue Reading →

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Tax policy, economic growth and deficit solutions: Research roundup

We’re wonks about the state budget, and love reading about tax policy. If you’re like us, here’s a link to a new roundup of research about taxes, brought to us by our friends at Journalists’ Resource, run by the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy. Continue Reading →

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Ethics training materials for incoming legislators

The National Conference of State Legislatures is one of our favorite organizations because — even though it’s set up to be a resource for legislators — it’s also a great repository of information for reporters who cover state government. When we want to see how Maine compares, say, to other states in laws on raw milk sales, the NCSL has a section on just that. And, of course, on many other things. Last week, when newly elected lawmakers came to the statehouse in Augusta for orientation and swearing-in, one of the events organized for them was a seminar on ethics, taught by Natalie Wood, an NCSL ethics specialist. We thought you’d be interested in the ethics materials Wood distributed to the lawmakers. Continue Reading →

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EPA investigating toxic laundry emissions in New England

The moment Mark Spiro walked into G&K Services, an industrial laundry in Waterbury, Conn., the steamy air stung his eyes and made his head ache. The place reeked of chemical solvents: methyl ethyl ketone, xylene, toluene – the sickly sweet scents of spray paint, permanent markers and model glue. Continue Reading →

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Center reporters meet with Chechen delegation to Maine

On Monday, December 3, Center senior reporters John Christie and Naomi Schalit met in Augusta with four visitors from Chechnya and representatives from the Holocaust Human Rights Center of Maine. Christie and Schalit spent an hour talking about the Center’s work and more generally about the relationship between the press and the government in Maine and the United States. The Chechens, in turn, spoke about the press in their country, where news organizations are run by the government, and asked many questions about whether there was government censorship in the U.S.

“I came away impressed with the determination of Chechens to stabilize their homeland in the face of such a tragic recent history,” said Christie. “It was yet another reminder to appreciate the freedom and peace we have in this country.” The Chechens — Khampash Khavshbukharovich Aydamirov, Assistant to the Speaker, Chechnya Parliament; Aslan Lechiyevich Ismailov, News Producer, News Agency, “Groznyy-Inform”; Aslanbek Sulimovich Ismailov, Deputy Director of Administrative Services, Chechnya Parliament and Zarman Amkhatovna Makhadzhiyeva, Coordinator, Regional Human Rights Organization, “Niyso” – were visiting Maine under the auspices of the American-Caucasus Work Group, the Holocaust Human Rights Center and the University of Maine Augusta. Continue Reading →

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Rep. Martin had problems paying off taxes and loans from two government agencies

Just as state Rep. John Martin, one of the most powerful Maine politicians of the last three decades, is emerging from the bankruptcy of the convenience store he co-owns, along comes another financial problem.
And this one has a new wrinkle – this time the back debt is to a government agency. Continue Reading →

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State puts climate change planning on shelf; towns fend for themselves


A howling storm, tidal surge, downed power lines, beaches swept away, coastal residents evacuated. Hurricane Sandy? Yes, but it is also the story of the Patriots Day storm of 2007 along the southern Maine coast. Experts say both storms are harbingers of yet more severe storms to come, made worse by the effects of a warming climate. The streets are dry and clear these days in Ocean Park, the 130-year-old enclave at the southern tip of Old Orchard Beach. Continue Reading →

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