PPH reports “The former executive director of the Maine Turnpike Authority has been charged with felony theft and faces time in prison as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors.
The state Attorney General’s Office said Thursday that Paul Violette was charged with unauthorized use of the turnpike authority’s gift cards and credit cards for personal travel, meals and other expenses exceeding $10,000 in value. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.”
Debate began in the late 1970’s to decide whether or not the Maine Turnpike should continue as a toll highway or become a “freeway.” Some citizens wanted the responsibility to maintain the roadway and construct new projects on the Turnpike placed under the jurisdiction of the Maine Department of Transportation. The Legislature also gave the Authority a directive to study the needs of new interchanges in urban regions to promote economic development and increased commercial activity. By allowing tolls to remain the Turnpikes revenue source, and the Turnpike Authority to manage the highway, valuable and increasingly limited state and federal transportation funding, generated by state and federal gas taxes, could be used to maintain the rest of Maine’s roads, bridges and highways.
PPH reports “The resignation of the head of the Maine Turnpike Authority” and lawmakers are “pushing forward with their investigation of the authority’s spending and lobbying practices.”
Former state Sen. Peter Mills “will replace Paul Violette, who was executive director for 23 years until he resigned last week amid questions about the authority’s spending practices. The Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee wants Violette and other turnpike authority executives and board members to appear at a hearing April 15. The committee has said it may issue subpoenas if they do not appear voluntarily, and has said people should be prepared to testify under oath.” The Sun Journal reports, “Mills, an attorney, is noted for his open and direct manner of speaking and his enthusiasm for tackling difficult subjects.”
“Although the Legislature oversees the MTA’s operating budget, it has little oversight of the agency’s repair-maintenance budget, a $33 million fund in which a watchdog group discovered questionable expenditures.”
“The board agreed to hire Roger Mallar as a consultant. Mallar was Maine’s transportation commissioner under Govs. Ken Curtis, James Longley and Joseph Brennan.”
The Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee will “examine the legality of the turnpike authority’s practices of withholding some budget information from the Legislature, lobbying state officials and giving money to dozens of organizations and trade groups.” The committee is also concerned about “$157,000 worth of gift cards that the authority donated to organizations but could not explain with any documentation.”
If Peter Mills is open to tackling difficult subjects (and won’t look the other way as he’s done with bank fraud), he should look into the MTA’s relationship with the MDOT and “friends” which began during the tenure of former Governor Joseph Brennan, per Tom Dunn’s investigation. Tom’s investigation was brushed under the rug by then Asst. A.G. Arthur Brennan who sits on the bench in York County Superior Court.
Isn’t it interesting that the MTA board hired Roger Mallar as a consultant? Mallar was Maine’s transportation commissioner under Governor Joseph Brennan.
Has anything changed? Will Governor LePage be in for another surprise? Will Peter Mills’ uphold his “integrity, experience and commitment to public service?”