July 4, 2013

Maine corrections director's exit leaves jail issues on table

Michael Tausek, former executive director of the Board of Corrections, has a new Maine State Prison job.

By KAITLIN SCHROEDER Morning Sentinel

AUGUSTA – The executive director of the Board of Corrections has accepted a new position with the Maine State Prison, resigning from his role overseeing the state's consolidated jail system.

Michael Tausek turned in his letter of resignation June 17, five days after leading the last board meeting in Franklin County, and accepted a new job as deputy warden of programs for the Maine State Prison.

In his brief resignation letter, Tausek did not specify his reason for leaving but said it was a unique privilege to serve on the board and added that "much remains to be done in the system."

Chairman of the Board of Corrections Mark Westrum said the board still plans to make a timely decision on the request from Franklin County officials to redesignate the county jail from a 72-hour holding facility to a fully functioning facility, though he added it will be a more difficult task without Tausek's help.

"It isn't going to make it any easier; let's just put it that way," Westrum said.

Westrum said he has assumed most of Tausek's responsibilities until a replacement is hired.

Tausek's last day as executive director was Friday, Westrum said. Tausek did not return calls seeking comment.

Westrum said he could see why the position as deputy warden would appeal to Tausek, because it also would offer him a more stable line of work compared to directing the board, which has been caught in a financial crisis, with some county jail officials loudly objecting to a lack of funding.

"We don't even know if the Board of Corrections will be around in a few years," Westrum said.

Franklin County officials have been posting Tausek's contact information for the past three months, along with that of other members of the board, on the Facebook page of the group Give Franklin County Our Jail Back, encouraging the more than 700 group members to write and demand the jail be reinstated as a full-service facility.

Franklin County Sheriff Scott Nichols said he doesn't think pressure from the county contributed to Tausek's resignation.

"He's a professional and he is used to state government. I think he just found a better deal somewhere else and he took it," Nichols said.

Somerset County also filed a civil lawsuit against the board in May for payment of more than $280,000 the county contends it is owed for operations at the Somerset County Jail.

Westrum said he did not want to speak for Tausek about why he resigned, but he said the new Department of Corrections position will use Tausek's talent and passion for reducing the rate at which inmates re-offend.

Tausek will be responsible for directing and initiating new programs for prisoners, such as educational, substance abuse and mental health programs.

"I really am happy for him. I think he'll do well," Westrum said.

 

Kaitlin Schroeder can be contacted at 861-9252 or at:

kschroeder@mainetoday.com

 

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