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Rep. David C. Burns (R-Whiting), House Chair of GOC
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For Immediate Release

Date: 01/27/12

Watchdog agency to review finances of Housing Authority

House Republican Office

January 27, 2012

For more information:

Jay Finegan, 287-1445

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

'Watchdog' agency to review finances of Housing Authority

AUGUSTA - The legislative committee responsible for government oversight today ordered an investigation into the finances of the Maine State Housing Authority (MSHA).

The Government Oversight Committee tasked the non-partisan Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability (OPEGA) with conducting a rapid-response review of MSHA. OPEGA is the same independent "watchdog" agency that unearthed scandals at the Maine Turnpike Authority.

Recent exposes in the media have revealed that the housing authority, led by director Dale McCormick, has donated significant sums of money to political organizations and given non-meritorious $1,000 bonuses to employees. It also has spent money on amusements such as magicians, massages and overnight destination meetings for its staff at exclusive resorts in such locations as San Francisco, Miami Beach, Las Vegas, Orlando and New Orleans.

"Based on what we have learned about this agency so far, it's clear that an investigation is warranted," said State Rep. David Burns (R-Whiting), who chairs the oversight committee. "We wanted to have these matters checked out by an impartial, non-partisan agency rather than trial by media.

"We have a pressing need for more affordable housing in Maine," he added, "and it's important that money be spent wisely. A review of this agency had already been scheduled for March; this decision simply moves it forward. All of us on the Government Oversight Committee are interested in open and transparent government at every turn."

The rapid-response review will focus on MSHA's sponsorships, contributions, memberships, and travel and meal expenses over the past five years or even longer. It is designed to determine whether the affordable housing organization, a quasi-state agency, spent public money inappropriately.

State Rep. Les Fossel (R-Alna), a member of the oversight panel, said he believes a full audit of the way MSHA builds housing, which made news recently for its $340,000 per unit price tag, is in order and will be pursued. However, that investigation will require a much longer and more complicated audit by OPEGA.

For now, OPEGA will determine whether there is fraud and abuse at the housing authority before initiating a more protracted and detailed review of the judgment behind MSHA's policy decisions.

The Government Oversight Committee is unique among legislative committees in that it is composed of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans—six each—and today's vote to move forward with the investigation was unanimous among all who were present.

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Contact:
Jay Finegan
Maine House Republicans
Tel: (207) 287-1445