A legislative committee that oversees state government voted Wednesday to continue an investigation into the financial management at Maine Veterans’ Homes even though lawmakers on the committee have not been provided additional information to back up claims made by a whistleblower in February.

Peter Schleck, director of the nonpartisan Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability, recommended in a memo that lawmakers authorize him to continue looking into the nonprofit because “questions remain about the strength of certain financial internal controls.”

Lawmakers on the Government Oversight Committee voted overwhelmingly to authorize additional investigation that might substantiate or refute claims made by the whistleblower, who has since been dismissed. Schleck said his team would focus on:

• Internal controls over spending on supplies and services.

• Timeliness of accounts payable accrual and processing.

• The extent to which spending is based on data and data systems, including relating to purchasing, payroll and human resources.


If needed, OPEGA would seek assistance from either the state auditor or an outside firm. And if any additional concerns emerge, the office director could come back to the committee to expand the scope.

Rep. Anne-Marie Mastraccio, D-Sanford, was among those who raised the question of whether any of the initial financial questions have to do with patient care.

“I think anything hanging out there like this doesn’t bode well for our veterans,” she said.

Schleck was careful not to share many details about what he has reviewed so far but said it’s certainly possible that lax oversight of spending at Maine Veterans’ Home could affect the quality of services. He stressed that he hasn’t yet drawn any conclusions.

Sen. Jeff Timberlake, R-Turner, cast the lone opposing vote after raising concerns about what it might cost to provide auditing assistance to OPEGA, particularly if the state auditor doesn’t have the resources.

Auditor Matt Dunlap told committee members that his office is busy at the moment but might be able to assist depending on the scope. If not, OPEGA likely would have to engage an outside firm.


“I’d hate to spend half a million dollars on an audit if we have a $10,000 problem,” Timberlake said.

Maine Veterans’ Homes provides skilled nursing care and rehabilitative services to Maine military veterans and their families at six homes: in Augusta, Bangor, Caribou, Machias, Scarborough and South Paris.

Last spring, the nonprofit announced it was closing its facilities in Caribou and Machias because of the declining veteran population in those parts of the state. That decision was later put on hold after lawmakers allocated additional funds.

In December, members of the state’s congressional delegation – Sens. Susan Collins, a Republican, and Angus King, an independent, and Rep. Jared Golden, D-2nd District – announced $3 million in funding for the Maine Veterans’ Homes in the federal omnibus spending bill. The money was going to pay for renovations and life-safety upgrades.

Before Wednesday’s vote, Government Oversight Committee members posed questions to Maine Veterans’ Homes CEO Sharon Fusco and board Chair Donald Lagace. But neither offered details about the claims made by the whistleblower seven months ago, other than to say that the nonprofit is cooperating with OPEGA.

In a letter to OPEGA dated Sept. 4, Fusco wrote that she hoped any investigation would lead to improvements at the homes.


“We fully intend to act on your constructive feedback to take (Maine Veterans’ Homes) to the next level of success,” she wrote.

An attorney representing the board previously had said that Maine Veterans’ Homes would launch its own internal investigation.

On that note, Sen. Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop, the oversight committee co-chair, asked Lagace if he and the board have been receiving the information they need to oversee the nonprofit.

“We may not have had the amount of information we currently have, but from a volunteer board perspective, I believe we had a significant amount of information available to us,” Lagace said, adding that the board was in the process of doing a “deeper dive.”

The nonprofit has done yearly audits with help from a private firm, Lagace said, and they have not revealed any “red flags.”

The timeline for what happens next was not settled Wednesday and Schleck said he would come back to the committee as needed.

“I think a sense of urgency is important,” said Rep. Jessica Fay, D-Raymond, the House chair of the committee. “We need to feel confident that money is being stewarded well.”

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