AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Turnpike Authority no longer will make donations to outside groups, a practice that created a firestorm of criticism after news broke that turnpike executives gave away $157,000 in gift cards from high-end hotels and restaurants, officials said Friday.
The board’s vote was disclosed as Peter Mills, the turnpike’s interim director, appeared before the Legislature Government and Oversight Committee.
Mills told the panel that the turnpike authority already is adopting some suggestions made by the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability.
For example, the turnpike is separating project management and engineering contracts instead of using the same firm for both. Going forward, the turnpike authority will handle project management in-house, and will put engineering contracts out for competitive bid, officials said.
Mills was joined at the hearing by Roger Mallar, who has been hired as a consultant. Mallar served as transportation commissioner under three administrations.
The oversight committee continues to investigate the handout of gift cards, which led to the resignation of Maine Turnpike Authority Executive Director Paul Violette after 23 years of service.
But the gift cards, handed out from 2005 to 2007, were only the tip of the iceberg. Besides the gift-card expenditures, OPEGA identified at least $454,000 in additional sponsorships and donations the turnpike made to as many as 50 different charitable and noncharitable organizations.
The turnpike authority board voted Thursday to end all of those donations to outside groups, said turnpike spokesman Scott Tompkins.