AUGUSTA — A state oversight agency has found no evidence of fraud or inappropriate spending by Maine State Housing Authority, according to a report being presented to the Legislature today.

The Office of Program Evaluation & Government Accountability reviewed about $4.3 million in spending by the agency between 2007 and 2011 based on questions raised by lawmakers and critics, including the Maine Heritage Policy Center. OPEGA Director Beth Ashcroft is presenting the details to the Legislature’s Government Oversight committee this morning.

“All of the business expenses appear to be business related … and we find no indications of fraud,” Ashcroft said.

The OPEGA report does identify expenses that “might be questioned as unnecessary,” however, because they are not typical of conventional state agencies, Ashcroft said. Those include expenses such as professional memberships and sponsorships, gift-card bonuses for employees and business meals.

The review included a close look at former director Dale McCormick’s business expenses, including travel to conferences and meals. It notes that lodging expenses for most of about 40 trips appeared reasonable, while her hotel room exceeded $300 per night in three cases.

MSHA paid $9,625 for business meals for McCormick and staff while they were not traveling, a practice that is limited in state agencies, Ashcroft noted. MSHA is a quasi-independent agency overseen by a board of directors.

“The state does not typically pay for non-travel business meals for administrators or staff,” Ashcroft said.

The report is considered the first phase of a more comprehensive, onoing review. It will be the subject of a public hearing before the committee on June 8.

The Government Oversight Committee is intended to be a non-partisan panel, the only one with an equal number of Republicans and Democrats. Members from both parties said they appreciated the objective report and were glad to see no evidence of fraud. However, the discussion ended in an exchange of partisan jabs over the report and the successful effort to oust McCormick.

Democrats said the report vindicated the agency and McCormick, while Republicans said it raised red flags – such as contributions to advocacy groups – that show the agency was misspending public money.

“The report did reveal to me some inappropriate behavior,” said Rep. David Burns, R-Whiting. “It’s an indication to me there was too much laxness.”

Sen. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, said the report was a complete vindication. “I think it was definitely vindictive politics at its very worst. Now we know the truth.”

She criticized State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin for helping lead a smear campaign against a public official. “It’s astounding that Bruce Poliquin could get away with that type of behavior,” she said.

Poliquin did not attend the committee meeting. But MSHA Board Chairman Peter Anastos, who also helped lead the criticism of McCormick, said the report showed that McCormick was traveling too much and spending time on side projects.

“Was there fraud? No,” he said. “But were they out doing other things when they should have been taking care of business? Yes.”