It was a gun threat against Maine Governor Paul LePage by an alleged violent offender.
And yet, according to Maine Housing information manager Deborah Turcotte, the Maine State Housing Authority never reported the threat to the police. Neither did MSHA contact the governor’s security detail.
The threat was from a client with a brain injury who “has been arrested for assault in the past,” and “apparently has a tendency to react violently to people when he’s upset with them in the heat of the moment,” according to documentation.
When some version of the threat was finally revealed to the public, 14 days after the incident, the governor was not mentioned. Instead, the threat, falsely portrayed as a threat against Maine Housing, was used to justify the under-siege mentality the agency had adopted toward individuals attending the public commissioners’ board meetings.
The statement in a press release, “MaineHousing recently received a gun threat” followed on the heels of a reference to other “security-related incidents” at Maine Housing, which included repeated requests from individuals to be allowed into the commissioners’ meetings in a timely manner and a complaint that a staff member from the Maine Heritage Policy Center had walked several feet past the reception area to the elevator unescorted. Just before the gun threat claim was mentioned, the MSHA account also made a claim of “angry comments” and “expletives.” The press release was issued in response to a visit to the MSHA office by state Senator Debra Plowman to review ramped up security measures geared toward attendees of the commissioners’ meetings.
Later asked which police unit was investigating the gun threat, when it still appeared the gun threat was against MSHA, Turcotte, in a January 26 email with the subject “MSHA gun threat” responded, “The threat was from a person with special needs, and the incident was addressed internally.”
The gun threat, however, was not against Maine Housing, as claimed in the press release, nor was it made at Maine Housing, nor was it made in Augusta. The threat was made by a client to a caseworker of the Alpha One agency in Bangor, approximately 100 miles away. Alpha One and Maine State Housing have a collaborative agreement for the administration of the grant-funded Home Retro Program which covers modifications to homes of disabled homeowners.
Documents obtained by The Maine Wire dated January 10 state that an Alpha One client with a brain injury became verbally volatile when asked to provide additional contractor quotes for his home modifications. He was told that MSHA required the additional information.
“He got extremely upset with me on the phone. Was yelling at me.”
The client’s name was blacked out. The report concludes: “Before I hung up, he told me about how he had restraining orders against several people.”
“He told me that LePage and that black boy should be taken out and shot…..”
“I let D[redacted] know about the nature of the call to give her a heads up. I will also inform our employee who is in charge of Safety.”
Alpha One appears to have thoroughly documented the incident and the legitimacy for concern regarding the particular client, and then to have turned that documentation over to a Maine Housing staff member. An emailed message from an Alpha One staff member whose name is blacked out, to the MSHA staffer, details, “I just wanted to make you aware that when (the caseworker) called (the client) to explain that we needed to get more detailed bids from other contractors, in her words, ‘he yelled and screamed at me, and threatened me with bodily harm.‘ She wanted me to know, ‘in case he comes by (the Alpha One) office with a gun.’”
The Alpha One staffer wrote that the caseworker “did sound like at the end of the conversation he had calmed down, and would be addressing the problem as requested but you should be aware of his violent tendency…..we have been working around this by having a large man go with (the caseworker) whenever she goes to his home.”
The safety issue is reemphasized in the last paragraph of the communique from Alpha One to Maine Housing. “We will continue to try to get the updated quotes until (the caseworker) tells me that she no longer feels safe to do so………we will not put ourselves in jeopardy for him to get home modifications….. I hate to see us lose the money but I’m not willing to put anyone in peril for it.”
The information, marked “THREATENING CLIENT ISSUE” was forwarded from the MSHA Energy and Housing division to Dale Gilbert in the MSHA security office. The email synopsizes the situation, though it tends to minimize the clearly documented concerns of the Alpha One caseworker. “It is unclear in this email as to whether Mr. X did in fact threaten to use a gun or if that is (the caseworker’s) interpretation of his demeanor…..It also seems that all was well by the end of the conversation.”
Concluded Kirsten Figueroa, the Energy and Housing Services Director, “In a better safe than sorry move, we are sending this to you. Besides alerting you, can you tell me, is there anything else EHS should do?” That email was dated January 10.
The MSHA press release claiming that the gun threat was made against Maine State Housing was issued on January 24.
To date, MSHA has not made contact with the governor’s security detail about the incident.