The city of Portland has hired a former program administrator of the state’s General Assistance program as its director of social services, according to Jessica Grondin, City Hall’s communications director.

David MacLean will take over for Robert Duranleau, who retired in December, at a time when the city’s homeless shelters are under intense scrutiny from the state, which in February released an audit that revealed several people who stayed for long terms at one shelter had significant financial assets.

MacLean had signed off on that audit, as well as another critical audit in 2013. It’s unclear when and under what circumstances MacLean left the state.

MacLean, who worked for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services for 37 years, including nearly four as the GA program manager, could not immediately be reached for comment. A woman at the state’s GA office said MacLean left on April 17.

Dawn Stiles, director of the city’s Health and Human Services Department, told the City Council’s Finance Committee on Thursday that MacLean will start on May 4.

In the most recent audit, MacLean’s letter said the city’s practice of presuming that someone who stays at the shelter is eligible for a free stay without checking the person’s financial assets would lead to “absurd results.”

To argue that the law “provides limitless assistance without ever requiring an actual determination of eligibility would ignore the legislative intent, create inconsistent rules, and lead, finally, to absurdity,” the Feb. 20 statement signed by MacLean said.

Although it admitted no wrongdoing, the city has agreed to change the way it operates its homeless shelters. Portland will no longer bill the state for the total operating costs of the shelters, despite its claim to have had a 30-year agreement to do so.

The changes will result in the layoffs of three shelter attendants and the closure of a 75-bed overflow shelter at the Preble Street Resource Center, which is used regularly because of high demand for emergency shelter.

Instead of sleeping on mats, people who cannot get into the city’s 141-bed Oxford Street shelter will have to wait in hard plastic chairs in the city’s GA office until a bed becomes available.

As Portland’s social services director, MacLean will oversee a budget of $13 million and a staff of 78.

Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

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