Paul Violette former Maine Turnpiker sent to jail for 3 1/2 years

April 6, 2012

Paul Violette was sentenced today to an effective three and a half years in jail followed by 1,500 hours of 'community service' for his misappropriation of an estimated $150,000 to $230,000 over the last six years of his term as executive-director. Violette lost his job over the issue and has agreed in settlement of a civil suit by the Turnpike to repay it to the full extent of his net worth. The jailing comes on top of that.

Violette, 56, was executive director of the state toll agency in Maine for 23 years (1987-2010.) Prior to that he was a state lobbyist for some years and before lobbying was a state legislator (Democrat.)

Most of the theft involved use of a Turnpike credit card and Turnpike purchased gift cards for hotels, travel, clothes, meals, personal indulgences and cash advances that had no work related purpose.  But he also made claims for unused vacation and sick pay, to which he was not entitled.

The misappropriations surfaced after Dawn Hill, a state legislator from south Maine - angered by Violette's unwillingness to discuss plans for a $40m relocation and rebuild of the mainline toll plaza in York - put state investigators into the Turnpike to look for irregularities.

Fishing expedition

It was in effect a 'fishing expedition' given that there had been no allegations of any irregularities.

But after the investigation Violette didn't contest any of the findings, negotiated a repayment in response to the civil suit, and pled guilty to the criminal charges.

Speaking in the courtroom today Violette said what he did was wrong, that he was "deeply ashamed," and said he apologized to family, friends and people at the Turnpike to whom he said: "You trusted me. I failed you. And I hurt you."

Violette wrote an extraordinary 3-page letter to the Judge that was released by the court today (see download at bottom).

Partial quotes: "I have struggled to come to terms with how I could have deviated so far from my personal values instilled by my family and by commitment to public service.... the bottom line is that at all times ... I knew what I did was wrong and intended to conceal it from others.  I am particularly distraught that my actions inevitably have cast a cloud over the MTA ... That is my greatest shame and embarrassment, particularly when I reflect on the trust that was placed in me by successive boards, the rest of my staff... I always knew what I did was wrong and the gnawing fear of exposure hung over me for all these years... I know about how my selfish actions have affected so many wonderful people - family, friends, colleagues and the institutions which i represented... To them no apology (is) adequate... I owe the people of Maine profound apologies. I can only hope they will accept that my misdeeds were mine along and not reflective of... the Turnpike..."

The letter begins with an account of Violette's proud family heritage going back to French settlers in the 1770s, and his predecessors' commitment to "public service." And it carries an account of his career as he sees it.

Asked for a year in jail

Violette agreed to a jail sentence, asking today for one year in jail - 30 months total with 18 months of the sentence suspended. The state attorney prosecuting the case asked for a five year jail term. The judge this afternoon formally sentenced him to seven years' jail, 3.5 years suspended.

The Judge, Roland Cole said his decision on the sentence was "a tough one" because Violette had done "a lot of good work in the community," but he weighed against him the premeditated nature and protracted extent of his theft, and his initial attempts to cover it up.

Violette was ordered to report to Cumberland County jail April 13.

Violette's letter to the Judge:

NOTE: we expressed an editorial view that on top of everything else the jail was too much:

TOLLROADSnews 2012-04-06

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