AUGUSTA, Maine — For the first time Thursday, the Maine Department of Corrections revealed that leadership changes at the Maine State Prison were based on management problems, including the number of incident reports at the facility and the amount of overtime incurred.
While confirming that Patricia Barnhart is no longer at the prison, a department spokeswoman said Thursday that Barnhart nevertheless retains the title of warden and her $102,897 salary through the end of the month, when she will start a new job within the Corrections Department.
In response to a Freedom of Access request made Thursday by the Bangor Daily News, Associate Commissioner Jody Breton stated that Barnhart will begin a new job on March 1 as policy development coordinator for the Corrections Department. The new job will pay $68,577.
“The department has decided a change in management at the Maine State Prison is in the best interest of the department. Ms. Barnhart will be leaving her position as warden at MSP and assuming a new role within the Department as Policy Development Coordinator, effective March 1, 2013,” according to the statement.
When Barnhart was informed by Commissioner Joseph Ponte last month that he was making a change, she also was told she could apply for any open position within the department and her application would be considered, Breton said Thursday.
Breton said the commissioner decided to make a management change based on statistics that included the number of incident reports within the prison and the amount of overtime incurred.
The prison has been managed for the last four weeks by a leadership team headed by Rodney Bouffard, superintendent of the Long Creek Youth Development Center.
Bouffard agreed to perform the duties for the next few months while the department conducts a likely national search for a new warden, Breton said.
Barnhart could not be reached for comment Thursday and Breton said she could not share Barnhart’s contact information.
Multiple sources reported to the Bangor Daily News on Jan. 10 that Ponte dismissed Barnhart from her position as warden that day. State Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, chairman of the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, said at the time that he thought it involved management issues.
Jim Mackie, union representative for employees at the Maine State Prison and the Bolduc Correctional Center in Warren, also said at that time that he had heard from prison staff that Ponte had fired Barnhart although he did not know why.
Department officials have been mum for weeks, however, refusing to deny or confirm Barnhart’s status, citing confidentiality laws involving personnel matters.
According to the state’s website, the Maine State Prison has a capacity of 916 inmates and a staff of 410. The prison population was 850 in November, according to Bangor Daily News archives. The prison, including the Bolduc facility, had a 2012-2013 budget of $41.3 million.
The prison also has tried to curb illegal drug use within its walls. Thirty-eight inmates were charged with drug crimes in 2011 and 26 in 2012.