Maine Turnpike's Paul Violette - a guy who just loves to talk, and talk....
By Peter Samuel
When Paul Violette's name comes up among toll industry people they're liable to say "Remember Madrid." And to recount an amazing Violette performance at the microphone at an IBTTA annual conference some years ago. It was an after-dinner speech. The people there, perhaps 250, just wanted to enjoy their dinner and the company at their table.
A short four or five minute speech thanking the organizers and making some announcement of the next event would have been appropriate.
Instead Violette rambled on, and on, and on at the microphone saying nothing of any substance, for what seemed like two hours. It was probably about an hour.
The audience at first were polite sending him wind-it-up hand signals.
But when that did no good there were sporadic shouts of "Sid down, Paul, sid down for gawd's sake" and then "Will you ever shud up?"
Some couldn't take it and got up, and walked out.
Violette was totally oblivious, preoccupied with continuing his speech.
I think in the end one of the IBTTA staff had to disconnect the power to his microphone to get him to stop. One of them stood up right next to him and ushered him away mid-sentence.
Afterwards many said Violette must have been drunk he was so oblivious. Others said: "No, Paul never listens, he just talks."
He's at it again up there in the Turnpike's offices in Portland Maine.
Paul Violette occupied two and a half hours of the time of his board of directors Friday afternoon in an "executive session" on "a personnel issue."
And they aren't done. They are scheduled to resume the discussion of the "personnel issue" Monday morning.
This in the context of legislators saying Violette has told them privately he is resigning, and legislators passing the news to reporters.
The Turnpike's official spokesman Scott Tompkins says Violette has not written any resignation letter or announced an intention to resign.
True no doubt, but the formalities are beside the point. He's put it around that he's resigning.
If he wanted to squash the reports of his resignation he could do it with one or two sentences. He'd call a press conference and say simply: "Reports that I plan to resign are false. I have no intention of stepping down from my position as CEO of the Turnpike."
But Paul Violette just loves to talk and talk and... until eventually, in the end, someone pulls the power cord on him.
CORRECTION: We've been told Monday that Violette was not in attendance at the Executive Session Friday so our statement above suggesting his speechmaking occupied the board was incorrect. Maine has apparently bred other longwinded talkers - editor.
UPDATE: the Turnpike Authority this morning announced Violette has resigned and released a letter from him, a copy of which we're hoping to get and put in a separate report.
TOLLROADSnews 2011-03-05 CORRECTION & UPDATE: 2011-03-07 11:30