In hit piece on head of MaineHousing, MHPC cites data from before she was hired
On January 18, 2012 At 8:20 pm
Responses : 8 Comments
The Maine Heritage Policy Center (MHPC), the right wing advocacy group, started a “news organization” last month called the Maine Wire. Yesterday, they published this report on expenditures of the Maine State Housing Authority (MSHA), called Luxury Hotels, Magicians, and Massage: Maine Housing Vendor List Reveals Questionable Expenditures.
But as you will see, it is part of a coordinated attack on the head of MSHA, Dale McCormick. McCormick began work as the Director of MSHA in January 2005.
The piece was written by MHPC staffer Sam Adolphsen (photo at the top), who is the Director of their Center for Open Government. MHPC filed a FOAA request some six months ago, and was told they would receive data in two parts, beginning with a list of vendors, to be followed by a list of transactions. MHPC requested records 1998 to present; it should be noted that MSHA averages around 70,000 financial transactions a year. Many of these contain confidential information, which must be redacted so as to protect the public. MaineHousing provided additional information to Dirigo Blue and other members of the Maine news media this afternoon.
Maine Wire begins:
…the skeletal vendor list obtained by MHPC reveals a pattern of questionable expenditures that will likely increase pressure on the quasi-state agency to open its books to public scrutiny.
The released list, which contains no dollar amounts, no transaction dates and no explanations for why money was paid, includes, as expected, thousands of landlords, contractors, and other vendors seemingly in keeping with MSHA’s mission to provide affordable housing to impoverished Mainers. But the list also contains hundreds of vendors that appear outside the scope of the Housing Authority – including hundreds of luxury hotels and bed and breakfasts, from Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas to The Black Point Inn in Scarborough.
The expenditure at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas occurred in 2003, and was for the National Association of Homebuilders conference. The expenditure at the Black Point Inn in Scarborough occurred in 2001, and was for an asset management goal setting meeting. Both occurred before McCormick became the head of MaineHousing.
From this point forward, I will simply include the date and reason for the expenditures that Adolphsen cites:
Of the hotel listings, many stand out for their opulence, such as the Harbor Court Hotel in San Francisco [1999, National Council of State Housing Agencies tax credit conference - overflow hotel], touted on its website as “San Francisco’s premier waterfront boutique hotel.” The Wyndham Miami Beach Resort [2011, Dept. of Energy Weatherization Conference] asks guests to “indulge in beachfront accommodations and breathtaking ocean views.” Others include The Flamingo Hilton in Las Vegas [2001, Uniform Relocation Act relocation conference], The Ritz-Carlton in Boston [this may be the Ritz-Carlton in Arlington, Virginia, 2001, Development-training], The Balsams Grand Resort Hotel in New Hampshire [2000, Tri-state PHA conference], The Caribe Royal in Orlando, Florida [1998, Multifamily Underwriting training], the Fairmont Hotel in New Orleans [1998, National Energy Assistance Directors Association meeting - NEADA deals with LIHEAP] and “The George” a D.C. boutique hotel [2008, NEADA meeting] that promotes itself as, “a modern masterpiece of lodging and lifestyle amenities in the heart of the Capitol Hill business district.”
I would point out that I have yet to read a brochure for a hotel that describes itself as a fleabag dump, and my guess is that most of us have arrived at a hotel that did not quite live up to the online description.
The next two paragraphs are when Adolphsen begins his attack on McCormick in earnest, including the dog whistle that she is – dare I say – a lesbian. The expenditure for the Theatre at Monmouth occurred in 1998, more than six years before McCormick took over as head of MSHA.
Beyond the hotels, the vendor document also includes a listing for The Theatre at Monmouth, promoted as the “Shakespearean Theater of Maine,” where MSHA Director Dale McCormick has performed onstage, including a 2008 singing role in the chorus of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado.” McCormick also announced at a September 21, 2010 MaineHousing board meeting, according to the minutes, that “she would be performing in ‘The Pirates of Penzance’ at the Monmouth Theatre in dual roles of a policeman and a pirate.”
Another recipient of MSHA vendor dollars is Moose Ridge Associates, a political consulting company founded and run by Dale McCormick’s former partner, Betsy Sweet. The co-parenting relationship between McCormick and Sweet was discussed in a 1998 Bangor Daily News interview with McCormick.
Like any large organization (MSHA does have 140 employees), management takes some pains to boost the morale of its employees. This is especially critical when one considers the mission of MaineHousing, which is to assist the most in need in Maine.
The vendor list also suggests a predilection for parties. Vendors such as Riverback Dance Club (“Augusta Maine’s newest BYOB adult rock and roll dance club”) [2011, space for all staff meeting], Munchy’s Music (“The BEST Private DJ Service for HIRE in Central Maine”) and DJ Extreme complement expenditures at Sandcastle Entertainment [2008, staff summer picnic - it is unclear how Adolphsen is able to state as fact that Munchy's Music and DJ Extreme were part of this], which provides “inflatable bounces, slides, dunk tanks and games of skill for rental for birthday parties, reunions, and fundraisers.”
MaineHousing also lists, as a recipient of vendor dollars, the Saco family waterslide park Funtown/Splashtown USA [2011, expense reimbursed], along with the Portland Pirates hockey team, the Great Falls Balloon Festival, and the Sunday River Ski Resort. The vendor list also includes more than a dozen motivational speakers and corporate training companies, a magician [1999, Abracadabra Productions], and even Maine’s own Humble Farmer, Robert Skoglund.
Had enough? Well, you don’t share the tenacity of Sam Adolphsen or the bean counters at Maine Heritage.
MaineHousing has apparently written checks to a series of political organizations as well. Included on the list are the left-wing political activist groups EqualityMaine [2010, $125 advertisement], Maine Equal Justice Partners and the Sierra Club [2009, $100 donation - prize in United Way campaign]. MSHA made expenditures to the Center for Community Change [1998, $20], which states on its website that ‘Only by challenging the “on your own” mentality of the right and building a new politics based on community values can we achieve social and economic justice.” And MSHA paid money to a political philanthropy organization called MaineShare whose mission is “to provide significant support to organizations doing progressive social justice and root cause work in Maine.” Also included is the Maine Association of Interdependent Neighborhoods [2006, $150 for a sponsorship - 2009 conference], a group that describes itself as “People working together for peace, bread and justice.”
Also on the vendor list are a wide array of expenditures equally difficult to imagine as being connected to the affordable housing mission. These vendors include a series of martial arts facilities, Weight Watchers of Maine [2010, $145 employee wellness], chiropractors, the Maine Amateur Softball Association [2006, MaineHousing softball team fee for the State agency league] and Healing Hands Therapeutic Massage . Also among the vendors are the Maine Adoption Placement Services [2011, State Homeless program payments], Maine Businesses for Social Responsibility, Physicians for Social Responsibility, New Hampshire Society of CPAs [2009, Governmental Accounting Standards Board training], New Foundation for the Arts and the Academy of Art University in San Francisco [2007, online class for employee].
A long list of gender-specific groups populate the recipient list of state taxpayer funds as well, including the Maine Women’s Fund, Maine Women’s Journal, National Association of Women in Construction, Institute for Professional Businesswomen, Women in Need Industries, Women, Work & Community, Women Unlimited, and the Society of Women Engineers. MSHA Director Dale McCormick is the founder of Women Unlimited.
“Gender specific” should be read to mean “icky lesbians.”
It’s this next bit where Adolhpsen goes so far over the top that he and Maine Heritage Policy Center owe Dale McCormick an apology, because the expenditure they cite occurred in 2002, or at least two years before McCormick began work at MaineHousing:
A particularly inexplicable recipient of vendor dollars paid by MSHA is the New Iowans Program, a project of The Iowa Center for Immigrant Leadership and Integration (ICILI) at the University of Northern Iowa. The program “guides and prepares Iowa communities and businesses as they accommodate immigrant and refugee newcomers living and working in Iowa.” Why the Maine State Housing Authority is writing checks to a group focused on the economic vitality of Iowa is a detail left unexplained by MSHA, although a passage from MSHA Director Dale McCormick’s biography may suggest a link: “Dale McCormick’s family moved to Sigourney, Iowa, in 1955; she graduated from Sigourney High School in 1965, and earned a BA and a teaching certificate from the University of Iowa in 1970.” McCormick published a book with the Iowa City Women’s Press, and ran a carpentry company in Iowa City from 1977 to 1980.
There is really no excuse for this invasion into a public officials personal life.