Although the Maine Department of Health and Human Services has finally announced it ended its contract with the Alexander Group, the state is still out nearly $240,000 and the department is maintaining there was “value contained in the content that was produced” in the group’s report, according to a statement from the department.

The state’s effort ”“ particularly by Gov. Paul LePage, his administration and appointees ”“ to find the silver lining in this debacle is truly a lost cause, and furthermore, it’s insulting to the residents and taxpayers of this state.

The governor approved the $1 million contract with the Alexander Group last November, despite not having the support of the Legislature. The agreement has rightfully been criticized by Democrats in the Statehouse as a waste of taxpayer dollars. They claim LePage only hired the group to justify his opposition to Medicaid expansion under the federal health care law, according to an Associated Press report.

Democratic leaders vehemently disagreed with the group’s assessment in its first report. The report said the Medicaid expansion would cost Maine more than $800 million over 10 years, according to the AP.

Their concerns were validated in May, when it was revealed that portions of the report were copied from work done by a think tank in Washington, D.C., according to the Bangor Daily News. The newspaper reported that large portions of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ study on the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, authored by LaDonna Pavetti, was copied without attribution.

Pavetti told the Bangor Daily News that what the Alexander Group did went far beyond normal or acceptable.

“I have never seen this,” she said. “It’s literally two pages of text (that were copied). It’s not a small piece of text.”

In the print news business, that’s what we call plagiarism, and you don’t often hear about reporters who do that type of thing as creating other work that has “value.”

The DHHS, governor and his administration need to admit that this one is a major loss for the state, as well as an embarrassment. Instead of clinging to the perceived “value” they claim to have found in the Alexander Group’s work, they should be admonishing the group for its reprehensible actions and working to get back every penny that was paid them of taxpayer money.

Even though the DHHS reported that only $239,075 was from state funds, the $235,685 in federal funds came from taxpayers somewhere, too.

Thankfully, the state didn’t make the second half of the payment to the Alexander Group, but the DHHS is only penalizing the group for its “serious problems with citations in the text of two reports,” according to a statement from the department, resulting in a 40 percent penalty for the most recent report and a 25 percent penalty for the first report.

Maine deserves better, and residents should not be satisfied with these explanations from the DHHS or the governor.

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Today’s editorial was written by City Editor Robyn Burnham Rousseau on behalf of the Journal Tribune Editorial Board. Questions? Comments? Contact Managing Editor Kristen Schulze Muszynski by calling 282-1535, ext. 322, or via email at [email protected]