McCormick vindicated by OPEGA report

Posted Wednesday, May 30, 2012 in Investigation

McCormick vindicated by OPEGA report

by Gina Hamilton

On Friday, the Office of Program Evaluation and Governmental Accountability (OPEGA) released its findings on the Maine State Housing Authority and its former director, Dale McCormick.  In short, McCormick was vindicated, as she always said she would be.  Neither she nor the department was misusing government funds.

OPEGA did find that MaineHousing spent a little more on food and beverage service than other quasi-governmental state agencies ... for instance, they provided breakfasts and lunches when their far-flung staffs had to be in Augusta for day-long meetings.

But there was no evidence of out-of-control spending or fraud, as there had been at the Maine Turnpike Authority, the independent agency that MaineHousing critics most often cited in the witch hunt that cost McCormick her job.

McCormick resigned when the GOP-run Legislature, under heavy pressure from the Treasurer's office and the Governor, gave her board the right to fire her without cause.

McCormick had been the subject of a witch hunt since Gov. Paul LePage took over, because of certain policies that favored multi-unit affordable housing projects in historic buildings in cities, especially for the elderly without transit.  The agency also was in favor of green energy and conservation.

The dispute on policy got personal, as illustrated by recently uncovered email exchanges between board Chairman Peter Anastos, State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin, members of the LePage administration and the not-for-profit Maine Heritage Policy Center.

Republican lawmakers had a chance to prove that they were not engaged in a personal witch hunt when they considered the MaineHousing reform bill, waiting until McCormick's term expired in 2014 for the changes to take place, or waiting until the OPEGA report was submitted.  Instead, they did as their masters in the Blaine House and in the Maine Heritage Policy Center bid them to do.

McCormick was out of town when the report was turned in.  She contacted the press as soon as she learned that she had been vindicated.

"Sorry for the delay in responding; I'm currently a visiting faculty member at the University of Iowa and just heard about the release of the OPEGA report and the emails between LePage appointees and the MHPC.

"I want to thank everyone in Maine, and especially my friends, colleagues, and the wonderful staff at MaineHousing who stood with me in the face of these baseless accusations. I'm proud of everyone who had faith that we would be exonerated in the face of an outrageous abuse of the public trust."

So far, there has been nothing approaching an apology or any statement at all from the Treasurer's Office or the Governor's Office.  MHPC, on the other hand, tried desperately to spin their message through their propaganda vehicle, "The Maine Wire".  It is quite difficult, even for MHPC, to spin a few instances of something OPEGA calls "potentially unnecessary spending" to the kind of political witch hunt McCormick was subjected to for the last two years of her term.

Bruce Poliquin and Peter Anastos, at the very least, owe this long-time public servant a heartfelt apology.  Sadly, we doubt that such a thing will be forthcoming, which says a lot more about their character than McCormick's. 

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