EDITORIALS

If Gary Alexander doesn’t give Maine’s money back, LePage should make him

Rhode Island welfare consultant Gary Alexander (left) presents his Medicaid expansion feasibility study to lawmakers on the Health and Human Services Committee in this January 2014 file photo.
Rhode Island welfare consultant Gary Alexander (left) presents his Medicaid expansion feasibility study to lawmakers on the Health and Human Services Committee in this January 2014 file photo. Buy Photo
Posted June 05, 2014, at 10:32 a.m.

“This is truly a case of egregious fraud, waste and abuse of taxpayer dollars,” Senate President Justin Alfond and House Speaker Mark Eves said in a May 28 letter to Gov. Paul LePage.

They were referring to the reports on Maine general assistance programs produced by the Alexander Group, which were plagiarized, contain significant errors and offer no helpful analysis of complicated state policies. Alfond and Eves urged LePage “to take all steps necessary” to immediately terminate the nearly $1 million no-bid contract.

There is nothing in Alfond and Eves’ letter to disagree with. The two write about how the contract was awarded with no public or legislative input, and no proper vetting of contractor Gary Alexander; they describe how it has been paid for in part with state and federal tax money that otherwise would have gone to social service programs; and they outline how it included no basic warranties or performance guarantees.

So, they asked, given such serious concerns about the product and lack of protections written into the contract, what is LePage’s plan for recovering the funds paid thus far?

“We are particularly interested in understanding what legal options you believe are available to the state. Upon review of the underlying contractual documents, we have serious concerns that protections are not in place,” they said.

The LePage administration may have suspended all future payment to the consulting firm on May 23, but it had already paid more than $500,000 to Alexander. Will — and can — LePage get the money back?

It’s a completely reasonable question to ask. LePage himself said May 23 that the state intended to run Alexander’s work through a plagiarism detector, and he promised penalties — including the possibility of canceling the contract entirely — if the plagiarism accusations were true. And they are.

So LePage’s June 2 letter replying to Alfond and Eves reads like a joke.

“After the defeats you suffered during the past legislative session, l understand your need to score political points. But please stay out of the executive branch’s business,” LePage said. “Rather than stick your noses in executive branch administrative functions, you should focus your branch of government on the issues that really matter to Maine people.”

Legislative leaders evidently can’t inquire about executive branch functions, as they have always done. In fact, oversight of executive branch agencies is a key part of the Legislature’s duties. Apparently Maine residents don’t want to know what the chief executive is going to do about an ethical breach and waste of tax money. And those who inquire about the plan are simply meddling.

Nevermind that the U.S. House Budget Committee, led by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, has rescinded its request to have Alexander testify during a June 10 hearing about poverty “in light of recent events” in Maine, according to a committee spokesman.

Aren’t those “events” reason for more than a meeting snub? Aren’t they reason for far more than a resentful, slap-in-the-face letter to people seeking answers?

On June 3, at a campaign event in Gray, LePage said his administration was “working on it,” and that “there’s more to come.”

We hope that means recouping payment and rejecting the Alexander Group’s work, which has been an absolute waste of state resources and represents gross incompetence and inefficiency. If Alexander doesn’t give the money back, as would be right, Maine residents should take it upon themselves to demand that LePage make him.

 

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