NOTE: This story has been corrected from the original.
Travel spending has risen 37% in last five years, training has risen 187%
Data obtained by The Maine Heritage Policy Center as part of a Freedom of Access Act request shows the Maine State Housing Authority spent millions on travel and training expenses over the last 12 years.
Since 1998, MSHA spent approximately $1.6 million in business travel. Spending in this category has risen 147% since 1998, and 37% since the current director, Dale McCormick, took over the operation in 2005.
MSHA has spent more than $4.5 million in education and training expenses since 1998. The annual amount spent on training actually decreased from 1998 to 2004, but rose a staggering 187% since McCormick took over. In 2004, the annual training expense at MSHA was $267,000. By 2010, it had risen to over $779,000 per year.
Additionally, Maine Housing has spent over $10.1 million on consulting fees, categorized as ‘professional services.’ In 1998, MSHA spent roughly $332,000 on consultants. In 2010, that number had increased to more than $1.5 million a year, a 362% increase.
The categorization of Maine Housing expenditures points to many more potential problems with the financial management of the organization. Many of the expenses within these categories appear to be misallocated, casting a shadow on the veracity of the data released.
The ‘education/training’ category in particular appears to be used as a catch-all for dining and entertainment expenditures. Listed within this category are such heralded institutions of higher learning as the Ground Round restaurant in Augusta, Pushard’s Okinawan Karate, Abracadabra Productions, a magician, and Little Dan’s BBQ.
Expenses paid to Funtown/Splashtown USA, a Saco water park, are listed as ‘office supplies’, along with Are You Ready to Party, inc., Healing Hands Therapeutic Massage, and Sandcastle Entertainment, a company that rents inflatable bounce-houses and slides.
The Maine Wire will continue our analysis of MSHA spending in the coming days.