Too little, too late. That pretty much sums up Gov. Paul LePage’s mishandling of the Alexander Group contract. This so-called report has been a debacle ever since the governor secretly gave a nearly $1 million no-bid contract to a tea party crony.

In theory, Maine was going to get an analysis of health care expansion and anti-poverty programs. What we got instead was a slew of tea party talking points for the governor’s use on the campaign trail, rampant plagiarism, missed deadlines, a $575 million math error and an utter lack of genuine analysis.

We did not get anything that actually helps Maine people. But Gary Alexander is walking away with close to a half-million dollars in taxpayer money.

It took a while, but the governor finally canceled Alexander’s contract. LePage wants a refund of $27,000 for the shoddiness of the work already submitted to the state, but Alexander will hold on to about $475,000 he’s already received.

This whole mess could have been avoided, but LePage started with a rotten process and ended up with a rotten product for the state of Maine.

The governor secretly handed over the $925,000 no-bid contract to this controversial out-of-state consultant without public review or proper vetting. To keep this deal out of public view, LePage had his office write up the contract rather than following the normal procedure of public bidding and having legal experts at the Attorney General’s Office craft it.

All this from a governor who campaigned on a promise to make his administration one of the most transparent in Maine’s history.

Did LePage do this because he knew Alexander’s background would raise red flags? As head of Pennsylvania’s Department of Public Welfare, Alexander botched the consolidation of home care worker contracts, lost the state $7 million and created untold hardship for vulnerable residents. Alexander also cut off health care for 89,000 children, including kids with life-threatening illnesses who were erroneously deemed ineligible.

Democrats have been sounding the alarm ever since the secret contract came to light in November. I introduced a bill to cancel the contract. We could have saved ourselves months of trouble and many taxpayer dollars, but LePage vetoed my bill. Republicans stood by him and his tea party consultant to sustain his veto.

For too long, Republicans fought efforts to put an end to this contract. They closed their eyes to the mounting evidence and even tried to justify Alexander’s plagiarism as a problem with “punctuation.”

They didn’t want to admit that the work ordered by LePage and delivered by Alexander was deeply flawed. Normally, a contractor would not get a single penny for this kind of report until the customer was 100 percent satisfied. We never should have paid for the installment with the $575 million multiplication mistake until it was fixed. But under the governor’s secret contract, Alexander received regular $61,000 monthly payments, regardless of his output or its quality.

The LePage administration now is trying to claim credit for canceling the contract, but the reality is that they’re playing a shell game: the money being withheld is for work Alexander hasn’t even turned in. The bottom line is that he is still getting nearly a half a million dollars for the miserable work he’s already delivered.

The governor is Maine’s CEO, one who touts his business savvy. Unfortunately, this fraudulent report is just the latest example of his mismanagement. Within the purview of the Department of Health and Human Services alone, we’ve also seen a bungled contract for a MaineCare rides provider and a loss in certification and $20 million in federal funding for the Riverview Psychiatric Center.

The money that LePage squandered on Alexander was particularly precious. It includes funds meant to help struggling Maine families who have turned to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families for help.

I’m both saddened and angered that the governor wasted so much taxpayer money on a political document. We could have done so much good with these funds. We could have helped more seniors afford their prescription medications, increased staffing at Riverview, provided child care for working families or invested in services for vulnerable Mainers, including individuals with disabilities and seniors who want to stay in their homes.

Alexander should not have received a single cent for his report. Maine deserves a full refund. This is not simply an oversight on the part of Alexander and the LePage administration, it is an ethical failure.

Rep. Dick Farnsworth, D-Portland, is House chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee.

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