Paul Violette pounded by Maine Gov LePage
By Peter Samuel
"Poor management" of the Maine Turnpike occurred under the former chief executive Paul Violette, according to the state governor Paul LePage. In an interview with the Bangor Daily News the governor said: "There are good reasons why Paul Violette is gone and we put in Peter Mills to run the turnpike."
Actually it wasn't his management that caused Violette to "go," though perhaps it should have been.
(Rarely is poor management a firing offense at a state Turnpike. It usually requires something far more egregious, or even something quite trivial - like getting offside personally with someone powerful. We thought Paul Violette's mismanagement of the enormously contentious $40m York toll plaza rebuild project was more than sufficient reason on its own - editor.)
Paul Violette is "gone" however because he confessed after an investigation by a legislative audit office to longstanding misuse of Turnpike resources for his personal benefit, was sued and confessed responsibility, then was criminally prosecuted and pled built, and is now serving a 3.5 year jail sentence. He was estimated to have taken about half a million dollars.
The Governor said that if the Turnpike had been better managed under Violette toll increases now being proposed by his successor could have been reduced or even avoided.
Violette was executive director of the Maine Turnpike for over two decades (1988-2011) and rose in the wider toll industry to be president of the toll industry association IBTTA for a regular term.
LePage said that in the current financial state of the Turnpike with bonds to be refinanced: "We don't have a choice (about a toll increase.)"
He said if the Turnpike can't pay bondholders, then they can move to take charge of the Turnpike in order to assure payment.
Short of the state bailing out the Turnpike with money from the state budget, toll increases are "the only way."
Under LePage's appointee Peter Mills the Turnpike is pursuing both extra revenue and substantial savings in costs. The Turnpike is losing 20 people out of 450 each year by attrition and has announced another set of layoffs, and is seeking to rollback some staff pay and benefits.