Skowhegan Regional Chamber of Commerce leadership, from left, board member Sam Hight, Executive Director Maygan Dunlap and board Chairman Luke York are seen outside of the chamber office Jan. 18. in Skowhegan. The three have been working together to breathe new life into the chamber since Jason Gayne resigned in 2022 as executive director. Gayne began his prison sentence Monday for stealing thousands of dollars from both the chamber and Hospice Volunteers of Somerset County. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

SKOWHEGAN — For the last two years, the Skowhegan Regional Chamber of Commerce has had a clear goal: returning the organization to its members.

“From the ground up, we rebuilt everything,” said Luke York, the chair of the chamber’s board of directors.

York had become the board’s chair in 2022 just weeks before the resignation of its former executive director, Jason Gayne, who was indicted seven months later on charges that he stole thousands from the chamber and another Skowhegan-based nonprofit that he led, the Hospice Volunteers of Somerset County.

Gayne began his prison sentence on Monday, after agreeing earlier this month to a plea deal in connection with the theft of nearly $200,000 from the two nonprofits while he served as their executive director. But board members of the two nonprofits he led through 2022 said they have already moved on in the past two years, putting the challenges created by Gayne’s thefts behind them.

And for the chamber of commerce, Gayne’s actions have, in turn, led to a much-needed revamp of the organization’s efforts to serve the local business community, according to its board members and new executive director.

That both groups have forged on is a positive sign, given that small, nonprofit organizations that are victims of thefts sometimes shut down as a result, District Attorney Maeghan Maloney said.


“It’s a testament to the strength of these two organizations that they are able to continue doing what they do,” said Maloney, who also said she was personally involved in working with the two groups to negotiate Gayne’s plea agreement.

Jason Gayne stands at his court appearance Jan. 12 in Skowhegan, at which time he agreed to a plea deal that includes prison time and restitution in connection with charges that he stole nearly $200,000 from local nonprofit groups. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

Per the agreement, Gayne, 37, of Athens, reported to court Monday to begin serving nine months of a seven-year sentence at the Somerset County Jail in East Madison, according to intake records. The remaining portion of the sentence will be suspended, provided that he meets the conditions for his release.

Along with the jail time, Gayne was ordered to pay a total of $70,000 in restitution to the nonprofits over the next several years, most of which he already paid at the time of his agreement. His sentence also includes probation time and the completion of community service.

Though he agreed to plead guilty to two of seven charges brought against him, Gayne technically maintained his innocence through what is known as an Alford plea. Gayne’s court-appointed attorney, Jeremy Pratt, said in court that he would dispute a “large portion” of the prosecution’s case in a trial, though he recognized the state could produce enough evidence for a judge or jury to convict Gayne.

Reached after the Jan. 12 plea and sentencing hearing, Pratt declined to answer further questions. Gayne also had no further comment about the case, Pratt said.

Prosecutors said in court that they had bank records showing that Gayne stole more than $200,000 from both organizations by using credit cards for personal expenses.



Gayne’s actions left both organizations in challenging financial situations.

Expenses far exceeded revenues during several years of Gayne’s stint at the Hospice Volunteers, according to federal tax filings. In 2022, the year Gayne resigned, the nonprofit reported a $13,000 deficit, records show.

But the nonprofit also reported it had about $250,000 in net assets to rely on, according to the most recent filings for 2020, 2021 and 2022.

Members of the Hospice Volunteers board of directors and the nonprofit’s director, Amy Cunningham, declined to answer questions about how the organization was impacted and how it has moved forward.

The board of directors voted to not comment publicly on the matter, according to Bill Primmerman, the board’s chair. Primmerman referenced a brief statement issued by the board after Gayne’s court sentencing, adding that the thefts occurred several years ago.


“Hospice Volunteers of Somerset County continues to serve our communities by walking with families in life limiting and end of life circumstances,” the statement said. “We are moving forward.”


For the chamber of commerce’s finances, it was a similar story, according to York and Sam Hight, a business owner who joined the board of directors just two weeks before Gayne resigned in 2022.

“We didn’t go quite in the red, but we were looking at it closely,” Hight said.

Board Chairman Luke York, left, Executive Director Maygan Dunlap and board member Sam Hight stand inside the Skowhegan Regional Chamber of Commerce office on Jan. 22. The three have been working together to breathe new life into the chamber since Jason Gayne resigned in 2022 as executive director. Gayne began his prison sentence Monday for stealing thousands of dollars from both the chamber and Hospice Volunteers of Somerset County. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

Hight said he worked to bring on new board members with legal and financial backgrounds to help clean up the chamber’s finances. With those people willing to volunteer their time and skills, along with business membership fees still coming in to keep things afloat, the chamber was able to get back on track, Hight said.

That allowed the organization, which has more than 200 members in the Skowhegan area, to focus on the bigger picture and work on implementing new changes.


“It gave us what we needed to move on as an organization,” Hight said about the aftermath of Gayne’s resignation. “It was incredible that everyone I reached out to said, ‘Yes, I want to be part of that change.’ Everyone in the business community, I think, felt underserved.”

Those changes included expanding the board, increasing membership, and better collaborating with other organizations, according to York and Hight.

The board grew from four members to 12, allowing for better oversight of the chamber’s operations, Hight said. Term limits on board members were implemented to maintain fresh energy. More than 40 new members joined in the year following Gayne’s resignation in January 2022.

Bylaws were also revised to prevent future thefts by strengthening the board’s oversight of the executive director.

Now, the chamber is better poised to play a role in Skowhegan’s ongoing efforts to grow the local economy, its leaders said.

Maygan Dunlap has been the executive director of the Skowhegan Regional Chamber of Commerce since September 2023. Photo courtesy of Keith Lind

“Historically, the chamber was not collaborating as well as it could have been with other local organizations,” Hight said. “We all play nice in the sand box now.”

And with a new executive director, Maygan Dunlap, brought on board at the end of last year, the chamber has its sights set on serving its members even further. Plans include capitalizing on connections to legislators and establishing a formal collaboration between businesses, nonprofits and the local school district.

“All of these businesses, regardless of their size, are able to contribute something and make a huge impact in our community,” Dunlap said. “They’re doing that.”

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