January 2016 – Connecticut liquidation firm MFGR tries to sell the shuttered Old Town paper mill. A biomass plant and pulp mill in the 300-acre complex draw interest from an investor company that includes Sam Eakin, manager of Relentless Capital Co., and David Edson, president of engineering firm James W. Sewall Co. They approach the university with the idea of restarting the mill and selling power from the biomass plant to UMaine. Their inquiry prompts the university to issue a call for bids to repower the Orono campus, with an emphasis on renewable energy.

February 2016 – University of Maine issues a public request-for-proposals for a multi-year energy contract.

September 2016 – UMaine whittles 16 responding bidders to four finalists. Among them is ConEdison Solutions, a New York power giant. Also part of the ConEd team is CVG Inc., a company made up of three large Maine timberland families that own logging and wood-chipping operations that historically powered the mill. The university also maintains a bioproducts research facility on mill property.

Aug. 20, 2016 – A meeting is held at Sewall Co. offices in Old Town. Sewall is the previous employer of University of Maine System Chancellor James Page, who was its chief executive before becoming chancellor in 2012. He brought with him David Stevens, the company’s chief operating officer, who worked with Page at the university until 2016, when he returned to Sewall. Edson, now Sewall’s CEO, and Page, each guaranteed personal loans to the company when Page headed the company. Those loans have not been discharged. Also at this meeting was Jake Ward, vice president for innovation and economic development at UMaine; George Gervais, economic development commissioner for the state; William Firestone of MFGR; David Mahan, an Old Town city councilor; Edson and Eakin. According to an affidavit filed by Eakin, Ward looked at Edson and said the award “is yours to lose.”

January and February 2017 – Conference call conversations among ConEd representatives, members of the company that intended to buy the mill, consultants and investors are secretly recorded. On those recordings, several references are made by consultant John Richardson to the ConEd team about having an advantage in the competition because of insider information provided by Jake Ward. Ward, who is not on the conference calls, denies these allegations.

March 2017 – In another conference call recording, Richardson, Ward Strosser, project manager for ConEd and Cathy Renault, a consultant hired by ConEd to help prepare its submission for the RFP, discuss competition for the energy project. Renault suggests Richardson could approach insiders to assess a competitor’s influence in the bid process. On the recording, Richardson replies: “We’re actually going to meet on Friday with Hemant and a number of other folks. With Jake and Habib and others. So we’re trying to get as much intel as we can there.” The references on the call are to Hemant Pendse, who heads the school’s chemical engineering department, as well as the Forest Bioproducts Research Institute inside the Old Town mill, and Habib Dagher, executive director of the Advanced Structures and Composites Center. (On Feb. 13, 2018, UMaine confirmed the meeting involved Pendse, a Richardson/CVG associate and Ward via telephone, but said it was set up to talk about opportunities for the research lab, not the energy contract. Dagher wasn’t involved.)

June 16, 2017 – ConEd beats three other finalists to win the exclusive right to negotiate a long-term energy contract with UMaine. The proposal could be worth $100 million to $150 million, participants have calculated.

July 2017 – Eakin files suit, alleging he was pushed out of deal to buy the mill by MFGR and his former partner Edson. In his complaint, he alleges his former partners worked with ConEd and CVG to gain control of the mill.

Autumn 2017 – The university denies the appeals of Ameresco and Honeywell, the two runners-up, to its selection of ConEd to negotiate a power contract. “The university,” wrote Ryan Low, vice chancellor for finance and administration, “is not required to provide a justification or an explanation as to why it reasonably determined that a particular energy project best meets the university’s needs over another.”

Jan. 31, 2018 – OTM Holdings, a company with links to CVG, buys the Old Town mill.

Feb. 4, 2018 – The Maine Sunday Telegram publishes a story and releases recordings alleging Ward provided insider information to ConEd representatives, in violation of university system ethics and procurement policy.

Feb. 9, 2018 – The university system’s Audit Committee finds that Ward had no role in determining the RFP winner. But it recommends the chancellor, who still has a personal financial interest in Sewall Co., recuse himself from any matters having to do with the energy contract.

Comments are not available on this story.