conflict of interest

Recent Stories

LePage, utilities commissioner conflict over conflicts only partially resolved

A conflict over ethics between Gov. Paul LePage and a member of the state’s Public Utilities Commission has been settled in the short term, but threatens to produce more controversy over the long term. Continue Reading →

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LePage, utilities commissioner at odds over ethics

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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Maine one of 16 states to push ethics reform, one year after getting an “F”

A lot has happened since the State Integrity Investigation, a first-ever analysis of transparency and accountability in all 50 states, was published a year ago. (The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting provided the research that went into Maine’s grade.) Here’s a report from the Center for Public Integrity, which spearheaded the investigation:

“The project — a collaboration of the Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity and Public Radio International, with cooperation from the Investigative News Network — has been quoted, praised, assailed or otherwise cited by hundreds of news outlets, good-government groups and legislators. The project was also a finalist for the prestigious Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting awarded by Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Clearly, the idea of measuring accountability and transparency in state government has touched a reformist nerve — and our package is continuing to resonate across the country.” To read the rest of the story, ‘State Integrity Investigation’ has blockbuster first year,” click here. Continue Reading →

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

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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Adams Investigation Finds No Conflict

An investigation by Maine Attorney General Janet Mills has concluded that the state’s former chief utilities regulator, Kurt Adams, broke no laws when he accepted a job offer and securities from a prominent wind power developer while still head of his agency. A citizens’ group had asked the attorney general to investigate Adams, the former Public Utilities Commission Chairman, after the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting reported that he had been granted 1.2 million units of equity in wind power company First Wind while he was still on the state’s payroll in April, 2008. First Wind constructs, operates and owns wind turbines across the country, including farms at Mars Hill and at Stetson Mountain. Two other projects are planned for Maine in Oakfield and Rollins Mountain in Lincoln. Adams left the commission in May 2008 to work as senior vice president for First Wind and said the stock options — which First Wind called “equity units” in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission — “had no value at all,” and thus should not trigger state conflict of interest or improper gift laws. Continue Reading →

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Group asks AG to probe official of First Wind

A citizens’ group has asked Maine’s Attorney General to investigate former Public Utilities Commission Chairman Kurt Adams after revelations that he accepted a grant of “equity units” in a wind power company while still on the state’s payroll.Adams left the commission in May 2008 to go to work as senior vice president for First Wind and said the equity units “had no value at all” and thus should not trigger state conflict of interest or improper gift laws. The two co-chairs of the Citizens Task Force on Wind Power, Steve Thurston, a part-time resident of Roxbury, and Monique Aniel of Mexico, wrote the letter to Mills requesting the investigation. When the grant of equity shares to Adams was revealed, Thurston said he felt he had to act. “This is troubling to me,” he said. “Somebody needs to get to the bottom of this, these issues need to be investigated.”

A spokeswoman for Attorney General Janet Mills was noncommittal when asked whether the AG’s office is investigating Adams.

Kate Simmons at first said her office does not comment on current investigations. Continue Reading →

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PUC chairman took equity stake in wind company

AUGUSTA — While he was Maine’s chief utilities regulator, Kurt Adams accepted an ownership interest in a leading wind energy company. One month later, in May 2008, he went to work for that company, First Wind, as a senior vice president. The move from a state job to the private sector richly rewarded Adams: A “summary compensation table” in a recent SEC filing shows that Adams’s 2009 compensation of $1.3 million included $315,000 in salary, $658,000 in stock awards, $29,000 of “other” compensation and $315,000 in “non-equity incentives.” It’s not clear yet how much the ownership interest — 1.2 million units of equity — that Adams got while still at the commission is worth, since First Wind has not put a value on the equity units in its SEC filings. First Wind constructs, operates and owns wind turbines in the Northeast, the West and Hawaii. Continue Reading →

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For Whom Does the Secretary of State Work?

By NAOMI SCHALIT
Senior Reporter

Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap’s job is to run elections, oversee the state archives, ensure compliance with corporate incorporation filings and administer the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. But Dunlap, who is paid $83,844 by Maine taxpayers to represent their interests, also represents the interests of one of the most powerful special interest groups in the state: He serves on the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine board of directors and acts as a representative in state proceedings on behalf of SAM. Dunlap has been most visible representing SAM on the “Keeping Maine’s Forests” committee that is crafting a plan for the future of Maine’s North Woods. He has also represented SAM in statehouse discussions about a controversy regarding logging in deer yards near Katahdin Lake. Those discussions included Republican Senator David Trahan and Democratic Rep. John Piotti. Continue Reading →

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