Kevin Thomas, former publisher of Maine Media Collective, issued a statement Tuesday apologizing for his role in creating a difficult work environment while he led the company.

Thomas also apologized to Jessie Lacey, who late last week accused him of sexual misconduct while he was her boss. In a lengthy post on the website Medium, Lacey alleged that Thomas kissed her twice without her permission in 2010 and then made her work life uncomfortable for several months thereafter, leading to her eventual departure from the company.

Kevin Thomas, ex-publisher of Maine Media Collective, wrote Tuesday: “To my colleagues that felt unsafe … or threatened, I apologize.”

“I regret the events of that evening at Top of the East and feel horrible about her experiences at work in the months afterwards,” Thomas wrote. “I take personal responsibility for the lines that were crossed.”

Maine Media Collective CEO and Publisher Andrea King said Monday that the company was severing ties with Thomas and that he was in the process of selling his stake in the company he purchased and overhauled nine years ago. That decision came after several advertisers expressed concerns, prompting Maine Media to cancel the Kennebunkport Festival, a popular food-themed event it sponsors.

“My colleagues and I at Maine Media Collective were stunned by recent news coverage about our organization,” King said in a prepared statement. “The issues brought to light by our former colleague Jessie Lacey are serious and of great concern to us.

“While the working conditions Ms. Lacey described in her blog post relate to the alleged actions of former management eight years ago, we want to apologize and assure you in the strongest possible way that such conditions are neither present nor tolerated at MMC today.”

The statements issued this week by Thomas and by King each contrast with statements made last week when Lacey’s post first went public.

Thomas initially said Lacey’s story “as told on the blog, is not true.”

“The truth is, eight years ago, I asked Jessie’s permission to kiss her, twice. And twice, she said yes,” he said. “Was it wrong? Of course. I was her employer, she was my employee. And we were friends.

“We did both agree the next day that we should put it behind us and move on. I can’t talk about the circumstances of Jessie’s employment or her departure because it is a personnel issue. That also makes it difficult to defend against her allegations.”

King’s initial response to Lacey’s allegations was an open letter posted on the company’s website that did not reference Lacey or Thomas, but instead detailed how she has changed the culture at Maine Media since taking over last fall.

“When I became CEO in November 2017, I focused my attention on our values and vision. This has included a realignment of our culture, policies and practices and a strengthening of our brand,” she wrote. “I am steadfastly committed to creating a culture that is safe, respectful and welcoming and that provides an equal opportunity workplace free from discrimination or harassment in any form.”

Her statement Monday was much more forceful.

Jessie Lacey says dozens of people have offered support to her since last week’s blog post about the conduct of then-publisher Kevin Thomas when she worked at Maine Media Collective. Staff photo by Brianna Soukup

The shift in tone came in the wake of a growing backlash from advertisers and sponsors. Many who had been involved with the Kennebunkport Festival posted on Facebook that they were withdrawing participation in the event. Well-known chef David Turin was among the first to pull out, then others followed.

Others, including the Portland Museum of Art and Maine Art Gallery in Kennebunk, have ended their relationships with Maine Media and its publications – including Maine Magazine, Maine Home + Design and others.

Peter McPheeters, who owns OceanView Properties in Biddeford, also said in a prepared statement that his company has discontinued all advertising in Maine Media publications.

Lacey said in an interview Tuesday that she hopes the more recent comments by Thomas and King are “sincere,” but said neither had reached out to her directly.

She said the timing of their updated statements – after advertisers expressed concern – was telling.

Since she went public last week, Lacey said dozens of people have reached out to her to offer support.

“I feel like I was so scared to come out, so that has been validating,” she said. “My only regret is not coming out sooner.”

Thomas could not offer specific details about how he plans to divest from the company, but said he is actively discussing a sale with potential buyers.

While not offering specifics or naming other employees, he also appeared to take responsibility for broader problems with workplace culture at Maine Media during his tenure. Other than Lacey, no one has come forward publicly with accusations.

“To my colleagues that felt unsafe, or unsupported, or threatened, I apologize,” he wrote. “In our fervor to create something special, and pressured by financial demands, I was blinded to the difficulties that my colleagues had to face in the day-to-day work environment. And, for that, there is absolutely no excuse.

“Those that are close to me know that I’ve been doing some serious soul-searching for the last several years. They have seen changes in me and also in the work environment at Maine Media Collective. It is not the company today that it was 8 years ago.”

In closing, Thomas wrote that he hoped the community could continue to support Maine Media Collective and its “28 incredible employees” as he works to transfer ownership of the company.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

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Twitter: PPHEricRussell