No evidence FairPoint faked details

Posted Sept. 02, 2009, at 7:29 p.m.
(BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY JOHN CLARKE RUSS)



CAPTION



After taking the oath of office at the Maine State House Tuesday, January 9, 2009, new Attorney General  Janet T. Mills of Farmington addresses the legislature, friends and family. She succeeds G. Steven Rowe who has completed his fourth, two-year term. (Bangor Daily News/John Clarke Russ)
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(BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY JOHN CLARKE RUSS) CAPTION After taking the oath of office at the Maine State House Tuesday, January 9, 2009, new Attorney General Janet T. Mills of Farmington addresses the legislature, friends and family. She succeeds G. Steven Rowe who has completed his fourth, two-year term. (Bangor Daily News/John Clarke Russ)

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine’s attorney general said Wednesday she would drop her investigation into whether tests were faked to make it appear FairPoint Communications was ready to take over Verizon’s landline telephone service in Maine.

“There is no credible evidence that we have seen that anything was faked,” Maine Attorney General Janet Mills said. “Unless someone comes forward with some evidence, we are not going to proceed.”

The decision came upon the recent receipt of an e-mail to the Public Advocate’s Office from “David Unavailable,” the anonymous person who, also via e-mail, first made the allegations.

In his latest e-mail, the author clarified that he had no firsthand knowledge of the allegedly faked tests.

“Fairpoint should understand why a lot of people are suspicious of them,” he wrote. “Like many people, it seemed to me to be a reasonable possibility and it would have worn on me if it didn’t get cleared up.”

Mills said last week she was investigating the allegations after the PUC requested her office to look into the matter.

But she said the latest e-mail clearly indicated that “David Undeliverable” has no firsthand knowledge of any improprieties in the testing process and based his allegations on the alleged knowledge of some unidentified person.

“This would be a very expensive investigation, we would have to hire experts and that is not justified by what I know today,” she said.

Public Advocate Richard Davies said his office sent an e-mail and asked “David Unavailable” if he had a response to FairPoint’s internal investigation, which found no wrongdoing. “David Unavailable” responded saying he was satisfied with the findings.

He wrote that his original e-mail did not explain that he was making the allegations based on information from another individual, not from firsthand knowledge that programs were used to fake information, although he said he did witness a test held in Atlanta last year.

“I did not mean to imply that any of the people that I mentioned in the email had done anything wrong, but I felt certain that if it occurred as he said it did, then someone else must also be aware of it,” he wrote.

FairPoint bought the landline business of Verizon in the three northern New England states last year for $2.4 billion. During the negotiations with regulators, concerns were raised about the ability of FairPoint to take over operation of the systems. The regulatory agencies required a series of tests to be conducted under independ-ent oversight to assure that the new systems worked.

The original e-mail said the writer was part of a team working with FairPoint and its consultant, CapGemini. It charged that faked information was used in presentations to Liberty Consulting, the consultant hired by the three state regulatory agencies to make sure FairPoint was ready to convert its customers to its new system from the old Verizon network.

Davies said even though “David Unavailable” is satisfied with the FairPoint investigation, he believes the public would be best served by an independent investigation by either the Attorney General or the Maine Public Utilities Commission.

Mills disagreed. She said unless Davies or someone else brings forth some “solid” evidence, a further probe is not warranted.

Davies said the e-mail allegations have been a diversion from what he considers the “main event” which is establishing a process to assure that all of the problems FairPoint has experienced since taking over from Verizon earlier this year will be resolved.

“He apparently felt comfortable enough to respond to us and provide the information we passed on to the commissions, the attorney general and other parties,” he said. “Our concern now is to get on with making sure this all gets fixed.”

Davies said he is pleased that FairPoint is following the process his office suggested to hire consultants to assist them with making changes to their systems and business processes to end the service problems that have caused a lot of problems for a lot of Mainers

FairPoint spokesman Jeff Nevins said he has no comment on the latest e-mail. He said the company will answer Davies questions about their investigation at the appropriate time and place.

The three state regulatory agencies meet next week in New Hampshire for a joint meeting on the issues facing FairPoint’s operation of the phone systems in northern New England. Each agency shares jurisdiction over FairPoint.

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