Maine will not recoup any of the $475,000 paid to a consultant hired last year to study public assistance programs, Gov. Paul LePage told legislative leaders Thursday in a closed-door meeting.
In June, LePage canceled the state’s contract with the Rhode Island-based Alexander Group after revelations that it plagiarized from a variety of other organizations in reports delivered to Maine.
The governor said at the time that the state would penalize the Alexander Group $27,000, as allowed under its contract, and would suspend future payments totaling about $450,000.
Previously, the governor also said he would consider trying to recoup some or all of the money the state already had paid. On Thursday, however, he told House Speaker Mark Eves, Senate President Justin Alfond and House Republican Leader Kenneth Fredette that the money wouldn’t be recovered.
“He told us there is no effort being made to try to get back the ($475,000),” Eves said in an interview after the meeting. “The group’s reports were always politically motivated, they were fraudulent and plagiarized. We think the state should be fighting to get that money back.”
Fredette is satisfied that the $27,000 penalty, coupled with the suspension of future payments, holds the Alexander Group sufficiently accountable.
“You could sue them and get a judgment, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to get anything back,” he said.
Even Eves admitted that it’s not likely that Maine would get much money back from the Alexander Group in a lawsuit, particularly since the group has been disgraced nationally. But Eves said the state should sue on principle.
Adrienne Bennett, the governor’s spokeswoman, said a suit would waste more taxpayer money.
“We recognize that there were some missteps, but we’re moving forward,” she said.
Democratic leaders had been requesting a meeting with the governor for more than two months to talk about the Alexander Group but did not get it until Thursday.
The focus of the meeting ended up shifting to whether the governor and the Legislature, particularly Democrats, can work together on solutions to pressing issues, including the ongoing crisis at Riverview Psychiatric Center and the state’s continuing drug abuse epidemic.
Bennett said she talked to the governor after the meeting and he told her it was a difficult conversation.
“The Democrats would rather talk politics, not policy,” she said. “The governor is a tough negotiator, but he’s not going to negotiate bad policy.”
Bennett said if lawmakers don’t want to work with LePage, he will continue to go it alone.
Fredette said Republican lawmakers are more than willing to stay at the table to work on solutions, and he criticized Democrats for not being willing to do the same.
Eves said the governor simply used the meeting as another opportunity to scold Democrats for not giving him everything he wants.
Staff Writer Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or: