AUGUSTA, Maine — A “spoof draft” of a public notice advertisement from the Maine Department of Transportation that was never supposed to be seen by the general public was mistakenly published Wednesday in the Bangor Daily News.
Contained in the text of the ad were comments that poked fun at island residents. The two-column, 5-inch ad was on Page A2 of Wednesday’s paper and advertised a public meeting in the town of Islesboro to discuss the DOT’s planned replacement of Mill Bridge.
“We really don’t care about the bridge. We are just curious about these island folk,” the ad read. “Anyone who happens by is invited to disrupt the meeting.
“Candid photos will be sneakily taken of awkward persons for our entertainment. Life jackets and coffee brandy will be provided upon advance request.”
DOT Commissioner David Bernhardt sent a letter of apology on Wednesday to the residents of Islesboro.
“This was an obvious spoof draft that was somehow emailed and published in the paper,” he wrote. “This behavior is unacceptable and in no way reflects the values of the department or the seriousness and care in which the department treats its public input processes.
“We have the utmost respect for the citizens of Islesboro, its elected officials and its management. On behalf of MaineDOT, I sincerely apologize for this mistake. Appropriate measures are being taken to ensure that this does not happen again.”
Asked whether the responsible employee was fired, DOT spokesman Ted Talbot said he could not discuss personnel matters.
The letter from Bernhardt was sent to Islesboro interim Town Manager Janet Anderson on Wednesday. Anderson said Wednesday that she had seen the ad but did not want to comment.
The BDN newsroom referred questions to the advertising department, which exclusively handles advertisements.
BDN interim advertising director Steve Martin apologized for the error and said he has reminded staff to always review ads carefully before being published.
“The ad actually was sent to us twice, with the original proofread by staff,” Martin said in a statement. “Due to technical issues, the first version could not be processed properly, so the advertiser was asked to resend the ad, which was then processed.
“The problem was that we treated the second submission as a duplicate of the already proofed ad, which it clearly wasn’t. This event reinforces the need to be ever vigilant in our efforts.”
Talbot confirmed that is what transpired.