AUGUSTA – A conservative group is questioning expenditures by the Maine State Housing Authority, citing a list that includes massage services, a martial arts academy and Funtown/Splashtown.

The Maine Heritage Policy Center filed a Freedom of Access request last summer for all of the housing authority’s vendor payments dating to 1998. The information posted Tuesday on The Maine Wire, the group’s news site, includes a list of vendors but no payment amounts or reasons for the expenditures.

“Even giving a huge benefit of the doubt, there’s not much of a correlation between affordable housing and martial arts, dance clubs and Funtown/Splashtown,” said Lance Dutson, executive director of the policy center.

Dutson also questioned the appropriateness of vendor payments to hotels such as Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.

Housing authority spokeswoman Deborah Turcotte said the agency’s officials go to many conferences every year, often getting discounted or corporate rates at hotels. Some of the other items, such as massage services and the rental of a dance club in Augusta, are related to staff training and wellness days. The authority also hired a disc jockey for a Christmas party, paid partly with housing authority funds and partly by employees.

The Funtown/Splashtown tickets were first purchased by employees, then the authority put in a bulk order for tickets, Turcotte said.


Some of the expenditures occurred before the current director, Dale McCormick, took over in January 2005, she said, including payments to a martial arts company in 2002, the Theatre at Monmouth in 1998 and Caesar’s Palace in 2003.

During McCormick’s tenure, Betsy Sweet, a former partner of McCormick, was hired by the authority to conduct interpersonal skills training for the authority’s staff, Turcotte said.

McCormick was not involved in the hiring – it was done by the authority’s human resources department, she said.

Turcotte said the authority is a $1.6 billion financial institution audited eight times a year, mostly because it receives federal funding. She said questions raised by the policy center are based on incomplete information.

“Further analysis will show these expenditures were paid on items that were in tune with the mission of MaineHousing and the education, training and wellness of its employees,” she said.

Dutson said his group will push for the release of more information, including expenditure amounts. He said information released so far raises “more questions than answers.”


“I think McCormick needs to explain these expenditures,” he said. “I think the people of Maine are owed an explanation.”

MaineToday Media State House Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:

[email protected]


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