Paul Violette ex Maine Turnpike charged with felony theft of about $10,000 - state AG

January 19, 2012

Paul Violette, the 23-year executive director of the Maine Turnpike now has a criminal charge to face - felony theft of gift cards, travel, meals and other personal indulgences on the Turnpike's account. The AP is reporting this from the state attorney-general's office. A spokesman is quoted as saying the charge specifies thievery of "more than $10,000."

Apparently Violette is pleading guilty.

Earlier after being sued by the Turnpike he reached a settlement under which he'll pay back $155,000.

Violette's long history of living high off the Turnpike came to light after a state senator Dawn Hill from York in South Maine had the Turnpike investigated by the watchdog state "Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability."

The Turnpike had a protracted dispute with people in York over plans to build a new toll plaza with a huge footprint to accommodate lots of cash toll lanes as well as highway speed electronic tolling.

The town of York commissioned a consultant report which found the York toll plaza plan extravagant and wasteful. York people including the local senator found Paul Violette unapproachable and unwilling to discuss the toll plaza issue. After that the senator sent in the watchdogs, who found more dirt than anyone had imagined.

The civil lawsuit claimed that Violette had:

- got himself overpaid by $161k through false claims of unused vacation time and sick pay

- charged $115k of personal travel, hotel and meal expenses to Turnpike cards

- spent another $143k in "abusive credit card expenses"

- misused a total of about $500,000 of Turnpike funds for personal benefit

Violette's successor as executive director Peter Mills has put Violette's York toll plaza on hold for study of other approaches including all-electronic tolling. In a first step Mills brokered an agreement with neighboring New Hampshire and Massachusetts under which the three states will support one another in toll collection.

TOLLROADSnews 2012-01-19

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