AUGUSTA, Maine — State Planning Office Director Darryl Brown has resigned after less than a year on the job, saying his work is done with recommendations made this week to create an Office of Management and Policy.
“Because of the working group’s affirmative action, my primary duties related to the State Planning Office have been completed,” he wrote in his letter of resignation to Gov. Paul LePage. “Governor, I am deeply grateful to have had the opportunity to serve you in your administration.”
LePage is in Florida for the holiday but Adrienne Bennett, his spokeswoman, said Wednesday the governor has high praise for Brown. Brown resigned earlier this year as LePage’s commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection after the attorney general said it appeared Brown had a conflict of interest because of his ownership of a consulting firm that has extensive dealings with the department.
“The governor was sad to see Darryl go and that he was not only impressed by his abilities but his willingness to take on a task that was deemed as short-term,” she said in a statement. “The governor feels fortunate to have had Darryl on the team and we wish him all the best.”
The resignation is effective Monday.
The decision surprised many. Sen. Doug Thomas, R-Ripley, co-chairman of the State and Local Government Committee, said the timing of Brown’s resignation was unexpected.
“I thought he would be around when the bill comes before the Legislature in January, but it’s not necessary,” he said of the proposal to create the new management office. “I am sorry to see him go.”
Thomas said Brown has contributed greatly to the discussion around the formation of the proposed office and the parceling out of State Planning Office responsibilities to other state agencies.
“I think this is going in the right direction and I just wish Darryl would be around to help getting this through,” he said.
Rep. Emily Cain, D-Orono, the House minority leader, agreed that Brown has been a good leader, although for a short time, at the State Planning Office. She said the concept of an Office of Management and Policy is a good one, although she wants to see the details.
“The working group has made its recommendations,” she said, “but we have yet to see the actual legislation and as always, the devil is in the details.”
LePage sketched out what he wanted for the successor agency to the State Planning Office last summer. He said when he was manager of Marden’s the company used “secret shoppers” to measure employee performance and to check on whether stores were implementing policies. The shoppers were company employees that posed as shoppers and developed valuable data for company management.
“We need that in state government,” he said. “We need to know what is really happening.”
Jonathan Nass, a senior policy adviser to LePage, worked on the proposal. He said the new agency will focus on government policies and management of the programs to implement those policies but will not include the budget function which will remain in the Department of Finance and Administrative Services.
Nass said the governor strongly believes there need to be better tools to assess the way programs are being managed, both within agencies and those programs and policies that transcend a single agency. He said unlike the Legislature’s Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability, the new office would look at programs in a more systematic way and not “the issue of the day” that OPEGA probes.
Nass said that an inspector general type of function is needed in an organization with thousands of workers and hundreds of managers in programs providing a range of services and functions.
“This is a way for the governor to connect directly with the front lines of government and do it in a way that you are going to get an honest and firsthand account of how government is actually working,” he said.
The recommended legislation is due to the Appropriations Committee next week as one of the studies ordered in the budget adopted last June.