State of Ethics

Recent Stories

LePage, utilities commissioner at odds over ethics

David Littell, PUC commissioner

Gov. Paul LePage has rejected Public Utilities Commissioner David Littell's decision to recuse himself from voting on a case involving bottled water giant Nestle Waters and the Fryeberg Water Co. Littell claims he has a conflict of interest because he previously worked at a Portland law firm that represented Nestle and the water company. Lepage says that isn't enough to disqualify him for voting on the case. Continue Reading →

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Sen. Jackson’s bill designed to help local man avoid fines for lake development

Pelletier home, Long Lake, November 2011

State Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, a candidate for Congress, tried to get a billed passed in the current legislative session to reverse a state fine and settlement against a constituent who had bulldozed 200 feet of vegetation along a shoreline where he had built a three-bedroom home. The bill was killed in committee when the state attorney general's office questioned its constitutionality. Continue Reading →

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Bethel lawmaker’s bill aims to wipe away ethical ‘shame’

AUGUSTA — Urging his fellow lawmakers to set “an ethical course for all legislators,” Bethel Rep. Jarrod Crockett Wednesday introduced a bill to require a one-year waiting period between leaving the legislature and working as a lobbyist.

Crockett said his bill is a response to a 2012 national watchdog group report that gave Maine an “F” for its lack of rules and laws to deter corruption in government. Continue Reading →

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Ethics getting statehouse attention, prompted by ‘F’ in national study

Michael Cianchette, delivering testimony on behalf of Gov. LePage

If you’re paid to regulate widgets for the state of Maine, then you shouldn’t be able to take a new job working for widget makers.

That’s what Ann Luther, board member of the League of Women Voters of Maine, told legislators on the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee Wednesday in a hearing on a bill that would stop the so-called “revolving door.” The bill would make it unlawful for executive branch officials to leave their state job and go directly to work for an industry they regulated.
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Official’s use of US and GOP funds to buy a camper was kept under wraps

Charlie Webster, photo Portland Press Herald

Phil Roy wanted a camper. It cost $15,000, but he didn’t have the money. What Roy did have was access to cash – someone else’s cash. Roy, the longtime Republican politician from Somerset County, managed a federally funded agency’s checking account as well as the checking account of the state Republican Party, where he was treasurer. So in August of 2009, Uncle Sam and the Maine GOP bought Roy the camper. Continue Reading →

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Lawmakers, LePage close ethics disclosure loopholes

Maine State House in Spring, Photo John Christie

AUGUSTA -- The state has paid hundreds of millions of dollars to organizations run by legislative leaders or the spouses of high-level state officials since 2003. But because of a loophole in ethics law, the public didn’t know about it. That won’t happen again. A bill to require disclosure of state contracts with legislators and executive branch officials has sailed to approval through the House and the Senate. The bill, L.D. 1806, now awaits the signature of Gov. Paul LePage, who said Thursday he will sign it. Continue Reading →

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Committee approves bill to fix state ethics loopholes

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AUGUSTA — A legislative committee has approved a bill to close an ethics law loophole that has allowed high-level state officials to avoid reporting millions in state payments to organizations run by themselves or their immediate family members. The bill now heads for a vote by the full legislature. Gov. Paul LePage proposed the bill, LD 1806, shortly after publication of a Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting story that revealed that between 2003 and 2010, the state paid almost $235 million to such organizations. Current law requires that legislators or high-level state employees report state purchases of goods or services worth more than $1,000 only if they were purchased directly from the individual legislator or family member, not from a corporation or entity for which the legislator or family member works. The amended bill requires legislators, executive branch officials and constitutional officers, such as the attorney general and secretary of state, to report if organizations they or family members were affiliated with — as owners or management-level employees — were paid more than $10,000 annually by the state. Continue Reading →

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LePage ethics bill would require more transparency in government

AUGUSTA -- Gov. Paul LePage is proposing legislation to close a loophole in ethics laws that has allowed high-level state officials not to report millions in state payments to organizations run by themselves or their spouses. The governor’s legal counsel said the bill was prompted by a Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting story last week that revealed that between 2003 and 2010 the state paid almost $235 million to such organizations. Dan Billings, who drafted the legislation, said, "This is a reasonable problem that has a reasonable solution. Particularly in the legislative branch where you have a citizens’ legislature, you’re going to have people who have these conflicts, but everybody should know about it and then people can act properly and make sure everybody acts properly and makes decisions accordingly.”

Billings added, “But if you don’t have the information, you can’t do that.”

LePage’s bill, whose lead legislative sponsor is Senate President Kevin Raye, R-Perry, would require legislators, executive branch officials and constitutional officers like the attorney general and secretary of state to disclose if organizations they or family members were affiliated with – as owners or management-level employees – were paid more than $1,000 annually by the state. Current law only requires that legislators or high-level state employees report state purchases of goods or services worth more than $1,000 directly from the individual legislator or family member, not from a corporation or entity for which the legislator or family member works. Continue Reading →

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Records fail to disclose $235 million in state work given to officials’ private interests

The Hall of Representatives at the Maine State House. Photo by John Christie.

Between 2003 and 2010, the state paid almost $235 million to private organizations run by legislative leaders or the spouses of high-level state officials. But because of a loophole in state law, not one penny of that spending was ever disclosed to the public in ethics filings. An investigation by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting has determined that the state paid millions of dollars to organizations associated with the following officials:

• Sen. Joseph Brannigan, D-Portland, chair of the Appropriations and Health and Human Services committees: $98 million to Shalom House, where Brannigan was executive director. Brannigan is still in the Legislature but has not been a member of those committees since 2011. • Rep. Joseph Bruno, R-Raymond, House Minority Leader: $35.6 million to Goold Health Systems, where he was CEO and President, and $49 million to Community Pharmacies, where he was a board member of the controlling group. Continue Reading →

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Documents show how incoming Speaker Nutting inflated Medicaid charges more than $1 million

AUGUSTA -- In 2001, True's Pharmacy in Oakland, owned by incoming Speaker of the House Robert Nutting, bought medical gloves for $4.39 per package. By the time True's sold them to a Medicaid provider, the price had gone up to $11.11. That markup -- 153 percent -- was much more than was allowed by Maine's Medicaid program, known as MaineCare, which requires only a 40 per cent mark up. Nutting contended in state hearings that his use of a different formula to calculate the markup -- a formula which put more money in his pocket -- was the accepted method. Although the state ruled its Medicaid formula -- not Nutting's -- should have been followed, the state said that even if it allowed Nutting's formula, True's still "overcharged MaineCare 100% of the time ..." Continue Reading →

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