Gov. LePage’s nominee to head the Department of Corrections sailed through the Senate on Tuesday with a unanimous vote, belying the controversy that once clouded his candidacy.

Joseph Ponte came to the job with impressive credentials, having run prisons and jails in other states, but his connection with the Corrections Corporation of America raised enough concern to give this appointment special notice.

For eight years, Ponte worked for CCA, which runs private for-profit prisons around the country and has expressed interest in building one in Maine. Ponte not only worked for the company, but also raised concern by initially saying he’d keep his CCA stock even if he was confirmed to supervise the state’s corrections system.

This not only raised questions about a conflict of interest, it also created an impression that there was a plan in the works to privatize Maine’s prisons. When he appeared before the Criminal Justice Committee, Ponte dismissed both concerns.

He said that, if confirmed, he would divest himself of CCA stock. He also said that there is no plan to privatize Maine’s prisons. The Senate took him at his word, and so do we.

There may be a discussion of using out-of-state placements to relieve stress on crowded facilities, but decisions should be made in the best interests of taxpayers, prisoners, staff and communities, not those of a powerful corporation.

Ponte has relieved the initial concern by announcing his decision to divest his CCA stock. As he gets to work he should keep proving that he has no conflict.