AUGUSTA — The defunct nonprofit group that received federal stimulus money to promote energy efficiency to homeowners continues to be scrutinized by lawmakers, who are reviewing documents given to the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee.

The hundreds of pages of documents, turned over by Seth Murray, executive director of the Maine Green Energy Alliance, include expense reports, emails between employees and copies of monthly updates sent to Efficiency Maine Trust, the quasi-state agency that oversees energy efficiency. MaineToday Media has obtained copies of the information provided to the committee.

Committee members from both parties said they had not yet reviewed all of the new information, but none said they had seen evidence of lawbreaking.

State Sen. Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, Senate chair of the panel, said he was upset by the partisan nature of at least one email written by an MGEA employee.

The email, written by Tom Battin to colleagues, said, “Sent an email to Lincoln Republicans who host a ‘Everybody’s Welcome’ supper to see if I can present there … all angles folks.”

Republicans have criticized the alliance because of perceived partisan connections to the Maine Democratic Party.

“I don’t know how a publicly financed, not-for-profit company sends out an email apologizing for working with Republicans,” Thibodeau said.

Rep. Jon Hinck, D-Portland, the top House Democrat on the committee, said the fact that only Democratic candidates and lawmakers were hired by the alliance was “unfortunate” but the email proved that Battin was working with Republicans to promote audits.

“I’m just wondering if that’s Sen. Thibodeau’s version of a smoking gun,” he said. “To get worked up about that, he’s got to read a lot into an ellipsis. So the ‘all angles folks’ appears to be the big comment.”

Thibodeau, who said he has reviewed about half of the documents, also has concerns about what will become of the group’s assets, such as about $7,000 worth of computer equipment.

Murray has proposed donating it to towns that were targeted by the alliance’s outreach efforts or Efficiency Maine, but Thibodeau said he would prefer to see it auctioned off, with the proceeds going to Efficiency Maine.

The Maine Green Energy Alliance came under scrutiny by Efficiency Maine Trust for failing to meet its outreach expectations, then by Republicans who were alarmed by press reports of the apparent connections the alliance had to members of the Democratic Party.

The group was created by Tom Federle, who was legal counsel to Democratic Gov. John Baldacci. Federle was paid $45,000 from June to December, and hired several Democratic state lawmakers and candidates.

“Obviously, the pattern seems to be that the Maine Green Energy Alliance did indeed have a partisan bent to it,” Thibodeau said. “This is a publicly financed, not-for-profit company that has taken the appearance of being political.”

Another employee of the alliance, Jim Martin, a former Democratic House member from Orono who lost his re-election campaign last fall, wrote in an email that he could not access political affiliation from the contact outreach data system purchased by the alliance.

The system, which is the same used by the Maine Democratic Party, was quickly abandoned by the alliance because it was ill-suited for its needs, Martin said.

Hinck, who said he had been able only to partially review the records, says he has seen nothing to convince him that the alliance was promoting home energy audits only to Democrats.

“It doesn’t appear as though that’s impossible, but I also feel as though other people were jumping to conclusions with the initial facts that I hadn’t seen before now,” he said.

Thibodeau said he has asked for more information from the alliance and will likely schedule another hearing on the issue in the coming weeks.

 

MaineToday Media State House Writer Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:
[email protected]