A story in today’s Portland Press Herald by Susan Cover quotes Maine Housing spokesperson Deborah Turcotte responding to yesterday’s story in The Maine Wire about troubling expenditures by the quasi-state agency.
Housing authority spokeswoman Deborah Turcotte said the agency’s officials go to many conferences every year, often getting discounted or corporate rates at hotels. Some of the other items, such as massage services and the rental of a dance club in Augusta, are related to staff training and wellness days. The authority also hired a disc jockey for a Christmas party, paid partly with housing authority funds and partly by employees.
Turcotte confirms MSHA made a “bulk order” of tickets to Funtown/Splashtown USA,a family fun park in Saco, and also made this disturbing admission:
During McCormick’s tenure, Betsy Sweet, a former partner of McCormick, was hired by the authority to conduct interpersonal skills training for the authority’s staff, Turcotte said.
MSHA attempts to sweep away the obvious conflict of interest problem by claiming the hire was made by the Human Resources department. It’s hard to imagine the director of a state agency being unaware that agency had hired the person she was raising a child with, but more details about all of these transactions are clearly needed.
Another story by David Carkhuff in the Portland Daily Sun features similar quotes from Turcotte, including this one about the purchases of massages for employees:
Healing Hands Therapeutic Massage of Belgrade would have been used for annual all-staff days, when one of the divisions at Maine Housing would put on a program to explain topics such as division roles and personal development. These staff days included 10-minute shoulder massages, Turcotte explained.