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Six-year MaineHousing board member resigns over conflict of interest

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Maine State Housing Authority, Augusta, ME

A long-time Maine State Housing Authority (MSHA) board member resigned in June following the federal government’s belated determination that he has a conflict of interest.

The board resignation raises several questions about how the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) handles conflicts, including whether political affiliations affect treatment.

Donald H. Gean has served since 2006 as a commissioner at MSHA. At the same time, Gean was the Chief Executive Officer of the York County Shelter Programs (YCSP), a 501(c)(3) non-profit.

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Problematically, YCSP receives hundreds of thousands of tax dollars through the HUD’s Section 8 housing voucher program, a federally funded program administered by MSHA.

According to emails obtained through a public records request by The Maine Wire, Gean’s resignation follows repeat attempts to seek HUD guidance with regard to his conflict. According to the emails, MSHA asked federal officials to supply a waiver for Gean in June of 2006 and May of 2008. The waiver would have allowed him to continue working with MSHA so long as he followed certain recusal guidelines on matters pertaining to YCSP. Both requests were ignored, and Gean continued to serve nonetheless.

“It is unfortunate that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) took nearly seven years to determine that Don Gean had a conflict,” said Chairman of the MSHA Board of Commissioners Peter Anastos.

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“Although I have had my differences with Don I greatly respect the work he does at York County Shelter Programs (YCSP) and in recent months we have discussed how we could collaborate to cap administrative costs at Homeless agencies,” said Anastos.

Anastos said that while many homeless agencies have overhead costs of 30 to 40 percent, Gean runs a tighter operation, with overhead costs usually running around 15 to 30 percent.

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In 2012, York County Shelters “served 560 homeless individuals who occupied more than 48,000 bed days of service.  Of our clients, 60% were male and 40% were female; 20% were children under the age of eighteen; 43% have a twelfth grade or equivalent education; 26% have a mental health diagnosis; 49 % have a chronic substance abuse problem; 56% were unemployed at the time of admittance; and 0% actively sought a homeless lifestyle.”

According to York County Shelter’s most recent available tax filings, the organization took in $4.6 million from July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011. Government grants make up $2.1 million of that revenue, while program services generate nearly $800,000. The shelter also reports real estate assets worth $5.5 million. Gean’s annual compensation, according to tax documents, is $71,767.

Attempts to contact Gean for this story were unsuccessful.

Anastos said that while Gean’s resignation is appropriate, further HUD action – such as preventing Gean from directing YCSP for one year – is not.

“I signed a unanimous letter from the Board of Commissioners to HUD requesting they waive their requirement that he step down from YCSP for a year.  Neither he, nor the homeless population he serves, should be penalized for this long delay from HUD in ruling on a conflict,” he said.

Why it took so long for Gean’s conflict to be recognized as such remains something of a mystery.

According to Federal Election Commission records, Gean has donated exclusively to Democratic committees and Democratic candidates for federal office, including $1,500 to Maine Democratic State Committee, $500 to Tom Allen for Senate, and $500 to Secretary of State Matt Dunlap for his recent senate bid.

S.E. Robinson
MaineWire Reporter
serobinson@themainewire.com

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