The Maine Turnpike Authority’s top officials said Thursday that they are reviewing recommendations for improvements at the agency laid out in a report detailing problematic behavior by a former executive and believe many of the proposals would be good to implement.

“We’ve discussed (the recommendations) preliminarily,” board Chair Daniel Wathen said. “We will discuss them finally and will discuss them with employees. So we haven’t taken a position, but many of them are, at least to my way of thinking, commonsense, good recommendations that we should take advantage of considering the perception of employees and just good governance.”

Peter Mills

Wathen and Executive Director Peter Mills weighed in Thursday on some of the recommendations and findings of the 17-page report, prepared by an outside arbitrator, that was first presented to the board of directors in executive session earlier this month. The Press Herald obtained a copy of the report and published a story on its findings Thursday.

The report does not include names but is highly critical of the former chief financial officer – Doug Davidson – who left the agency last year.

Based on interviews with more than 22 employees at the turnpike’s headquarters in Portland, it describes Davidson as threatening and intimidating, showing favoritism and creating “silos” in the agency so that all information would funnel to him.



In separate interviews Thursday, Wathen and Mills said that they are still digesting the findings of the report and believe it will be important to include employees in discussions about next steps. But they said many of the recommendations for organizational improvements are good ideas, and some are things they’re already doing.

“The report speaks for itself,” said Mills, who is the brother of Gov. Janet Mills. “There are some very good recommendations in there and they’re being studied. Many of them have already been implemented, frankly.”

The report by John C. Alfano, a professional arbitrator and mediator based in Biddeford, includes a number of recommendations on structure, organization and personnel of the Turnpike Authority, a quasi-governmental agency that operates the 109-mile highway from Kittery to Gardiner and employs about 350 people.

Its annual operating budget of about $133 million, most of which pays contract costs for various projects, is paid for entirely with revenue from tolls. It is not part of the Maine Department of Transportation, which is responsible for all other state routes and highways.

The report questions whether the board secretary and treasurer also should be employees who work under the executive director, and says the agency should develop a succession plan for what happens when key employees leave.

The report also questions whether the current structure of the agency is too much for one person – the executive director – to oversee and suggests the addition of a new position of managing director to assist the executive director in running day-to-day operations.


Mills thinks that would be a good idea, as his job is mostly public-facing and it would be helpful to have another leader focused on internal affairs. “That kind of outreach work is a lot, and really you can’t delegate it. … That means there’s plenty of room for someone to be here in the position of working with human resources and personnel and overseeing the internal operations,” Mills said.

The report also says the agency should adopt privacy policies to protect employees’ personal information, improve communication by holding regular interdepartmental meetings and make sure it has an up-to-date policy manual with job descriptions that reflect the true parameters of the work.

Screenshot from MTA YouTube video of Douglas Davidson

It recommends training for management and says the agency should conduct a wage and benefits audit to determine if it’s in compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Mills said his agency already has dozens of policies and protocols in place, and they have been periodically reviewed in the past. The report is another opportunity to do so, he said.

“It’s going to be done now and we will have discussion on whether we need new ones or new elements here and there,” he said.

He also said the agency is already in the midst of a wage and benefits audit. “We wanted to do that anyway and just today we were receiving a run-down on it from the consultant,” Mills said. “But we need to go through the process of digesting it and comparing their findings with our pay scales.”


The report says there should be meetings with employees to discuss and develop plans for implementation of the recommendations.

Both Wathen and Mills said they believe employees should be involved in meetings and discussions about the recommendations, which Wathen said will ultimately will go to the board for final approval.

“The effort is to improve our organizational structure and to improve the relationships of the employees, so we want to talk to them,” Wathen said. “It isn’t necessarily a top-down decision. It’s a collaborative decision.”


Wathen, a former chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court who currently chairs the commission investigating last year’s mass shooting in Lewiston, said he was aware of “virtually none” of the findings documented in the report.

“The board is there one morning a month and (employees) obviously didn’t feel like confiding to the board, and I don’t fault them for that,” Wathen said of the seven-member board appointed by the governor. “In any event, all I can say is I was not aware of any dissatisfaction with Doug Davidson.”


Asked if the report has changed his opinion of Mills’ leadership, Wathen said that is not an issue. “I don’t want to comment on personnel,” he said in response to a follow-up question asking if he thought Mills should have been aware of the issues outlined in the report.

Mills would not comment Thursday when asked if he had noticed any of the problems with Davidson described in the report. “I am not going to comment on anything related to personnel issues,” Mills said.

Daniel Wathen, former chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

He said he would not comment when asked about his own experience working with Davidson, but then added, “He was a very smart man with a lot of strong technical skills.”

Wathen said the board had a sense, however, that things “generally were not going as well as we thought they should” and that after Davidson left the agency last year, “things just weren’t clicking the way they should.”

The report was ordered, Wathen said, to investigate what was going on and see if a survey of employees would offer any solutions.

“We didn’t have any pre-ordained ideas, we just wanted to evaluate what the organizational structure is and whether that’s contributing to discomfort on the part of employees, or their professional relationships,” Wathen said. “And this is what we got. We didn’t pick out anything and say, ‘Examine this.’ We asked (the arbitrator) to look at, as the report says, an evaluation of the organizational structure and professional relationships. That is what it is.”


Davidson told the Press Herald on Wednesday that he had never heard complaints about his behavior and that he wasn’t contacted to participate in the report. He did not respond to a phone message Thursday evening seeking further comment on the report and his reaction to the recommendations.

Mills said Thursday that he has not talked to Davidson about the report and doesn’t see a need to do so.

“The issue that we wanted to address is to make sure we have employees participating in reviewing the current posture of our rules and policies and all our managerial practices and structures,” he said. “It was just an occasion to review all of that and make sure we have consensus around those things.”

Wathen also stressed that the report was not the result of an investigation or a fact-finding mission. Rather, it was designed to anonymously collect from employees their perceptions of the agency and their workplace relationships.

“Perception is important in an organization because if someone believes something, it’s reality as far as they’re concerned,” Wathen said. “The focus here is not on personnel issues. The focus is on the survey of the culture within the organization.”

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