Governor Mills: Drain the Swamp in Augusta beginning with OIT

Kirsten Figueroa, the soon-to-be commissioner of the Department of Administrative and Financial Services for the new Mills administration has her work cut out. Oversight of Maine’s $7.5 billion of annual spending would be challenging enough for any new DAFS chief but Figueroa also gets to clean up a hot mess leftover in the Office of Information and Technology relating to an $8 million sole source contract negotiated “confidentially” with Pegasystems, Inc. in December of 2014.

Credible evidence suggests the Pega Enterprise Agreement was entered in contravention of state procurement policy and the law. The contract pays Pegasystems $425,000 per quarter for use of a product most state agencies have no use for and seven months after the so-called Pega Enterprise Agreement was signed an OIT employee who was party to the negotiation landed a big job with Pegasystems, Inc.

How do we know the evidence of a corrupt and unlawful contract is credible? Because it comes straight from the horse’s mouth.

“The Pega Enterprise Agreement did not go through the proper procurement process and the circumstances surrounding it were highly inappropriate and unlawful, in my opinion,“ Figueroa stated in a sworn declaration in support of a civil case scheduled for trial in the United States District Court in Bangor in February.

Two long-time state employees who performed their work at OIT at the highest level of professionalism and competence allege they lost their jobs in 2016 for blowing the whistle on the Pega Enterprise Agreement and for reporting sexual harassment and discrimination. They sued the LePage administration and discovery in the case revealed a remarkable effort by former Chief Information Officer Jim Smith and former Director of the Business Process Management Office Josh Karstens to punish and silence these brave women for coming forward.

The whistleblowing employees’ plight was made worse by the stunning incompetence of the state human resource bureau charged with investigating credible complaints. Instead of investigating the women’s reports of harassment and unlawful activity, the women themselves were investigated for trumped-up and de minimis infractions — a pattern many in state government will recognize.

How do I know this? Because I represent Kayla Cole and Teresa Gordon and had the pleasure of reviewing thousands and thousands of documents and taking the depositions of Smith and Karstens* among others. On the same day my clients came forward with reports to HR of what they believed to be unlawful acts, they were accused of wrong doing and evidence was fabricated and used against them.

A jury will ultimately decide whether my clients have met their burden of proof with regards to their legal claims but regardless of the outcome of the civil case, the Mills administration and the new legislature should get to the bottom of the Pega Enterprise Agreement. If its found to have been negotiated unlawfully then those responsible should not get to ride off into the sunset with the public saddled by their fat government pensions.

Whistleblowers in state government routinely are retaliated against and have no friend in the beleaguered and incompetent human resources bureaucracy, and the Human Rights Commission is not equipped to investigate properly whistleblower complaints. Maine needs to strengthen its anti-corruption laws and rid the system of people who cheat and are otherwise not fit for public service.

See Case 1:17-cv-00071-JAW in U.S. District Court for the District of Maine, Document Number 24-1 filed 12/15/17, Pages 119 - 156 (Karsten’s deposition transcript); Document Number 24-1 filed 12/15/17 Pages 176 - 208 (Smith deposition transcript); and Document 39-14, Pages 65-77 of 79 (Pega Enterprise Agreement)