Two nationally recognized researchers on welfare policy said Wednesday that their work was copied by a consultant hired by Gov. Paul LePage’s administration to evaluate Maine’s welfare safety net.

The report in question, released this month by the Rhode Island-based Alexander Group, used extended passages from a February 2011 paper published by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities without proper attribution, said LaDonna Pavetti and Liz Schott, colleagues at the Washington D.C.-based think tank.

Details of the copied text were first publicized in a Wednesday editorial by the Bangor Daily News, which also wrote a news story about the incident.

Democrats have criticized the consultancy, run by principal Gary Alexander, a former state welfare director in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, for his conservative leanings, and for the opaque process through which The Alexander Group was awarded a $950,000 contract, which was not put out to public bid.

There are two instances of text copied from the think tank paper in The Alexander Group’s report. The longest passage, is preceded by a blanket attribution and a footnote directly referencing the 2011 research paper:

“According to the Center for Budget Policies and Priorities, the following advantages were demonstrated by implementing simplified and flexible subsidized job programs:”

Nearly two pages of policy points are then copied almost verbatim without further attribution and without the quotation marks generally used to indicate the inclusion of another person’s work.

“I could just tell it was my words,” said Pavetti, who discovered the copied material when she was reading The Alexander Group’s report.

Pavetti said that the center’s work, which is available to the public, is often quoted by individuals and institutions, but in most cases, the original material is cited in a way that makes clear where the material originated, she said.

“The standard is if you quote something exactly, you use quotes,” she said. “I think the test is if you looked at (the writing), what do you think came from the Center on Budget? I think that it should be clear. You should not be guessing.”

Gary Alexander responded to questions about the borrowed material in an email to the Portland Press Herald on Wednesday night.

“Yes, there are footnoting problems with the report that escaped our review process, but there was no intention to plagiarize. The report does provide credit to the work of others but unfortunately not in the proper format. We regret the error. We will be resubmitting a corrected report,” Alexander wrote.

Alexander said he also submitted a statement and an apology to the state of Maine, and that his firm would contact the organizations whose material was borrowed “to apologize to them directly and to let them know it was not intentional.”

Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew released a copy of The Alexander Group’s apology.

“The most recent installment of our baseline analysis of Maine’s public welfare system clearly falls short of The Alexander Group’s standards – and past record – of excellent performance and value delivered for our government clients and the public,” The Alexander Group statement to DHHS reads.

“We regret the error and offer our sincere apologies. Such usage is never acceptable, and appropriate checks are being put in place to ensure that this unfortunate outcome is never repeated,” the statement continues. “In addition, The Alexander Group is in discussions with the Department on concrete steps we will take to ensure that the ultimate report … achieves the rightful expectations of the state and the people of Maine: a clear roadmap to achievable reform that delivers excellent service along with substantial savings to taxpayers.”

Commissioner Mayhew said in an email to the Press Herald on Wednesday night that the state has directed The Alexander Group to make the necessary corrections before resubmitting the report.

“While we do not excuse errors in the report, we are also concerned that the media and Democrats have chosen to politicize punctuation over policy, instead of evaluating these critical reform recommendations on their merits,” she said. “We believe that this report has brought forward a number of key policy issues and recommendations that need to be discussed.

“We hope that in the eagerness to discredit this professional vendor based on political attacks, the work being done to bring clarity to complex programs is not lost,” she added.

Staff Writer Matt Byrne can be reached at 791-6303, or at:

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