November 27, 2013

Prison over for ex-Maine Turnpike director

Paul Violette, 61, served less than 20 months for stealing as much as $230,000 in public funds.

By Scott Dolan
Staff Writer

The former head of the Maine Turnpike Authority, who is serving a 3½-year sentence for what prosecutors called one of the most egregious cases of public corruption in the state’s history, is scheduled to be released from prison Wednesday to home confinement.

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Paul Violette, former executive director of the Maine Turnpike Authority, will be in the home confinement program until Jan. 8, 2015.

2009 Associated Press File Photo

Paul Violette, 61, will have served less than 20 months in prison when he leaves the Bolduc Correctional Facility in Warren under the state’s Supervised Community Confinement Program to go live with his older brother, Dennis Violette, in Orrington for the remainder of his sentence.

Violette was sentenced in 2012 to seven years – half to be served in prison and half on probation – for stealing as much as $230,000 from the Maine Turnpike Authority for his personal use from 2003 to 2010. Upon his release to home confinement, he can begin to complete 1,500 hours of community service required as part of that sentence. He will be in the home confinement program until Jan. 8, 2015.

“He’ll be picked up, and he’ll be living with us,” Dennis Violette said in a brief phone conversation. He confirmed that Violette would be released Wednesday, but declined to comment further about his brother’s future.

Violette led the Turnpike Authority for 23 years before his public theft came to light. He used credit and gift cards paid for by the authority to stay in five-star hotels, eat meals in high-end restaurants here and abroad and pay for luxuries such as spa treatments, casino outings and tailored tuxedos.

Violette’s misdeeds led the state to pass a new pension forfeiture law in 2012, as a stronger deterrent against corruption by public officials. The law, known as the “Violette Bill,” did not affect Violette retroactively. He will keep his $5,288.51-per-month state pension, although he has paid $155,000 in restitution that was based in part on his future retirement income.

Violette stayed in touch with his family and friends while in prison through an online blog maintained by Marc and Margaret Violette, Violette’s brother and sister-in-law, called “Friends of Paul.”

“Paul is already making arrangements to secure volunteer jobs in the Bangor-Brewer area so that he can fulfill the community service obligation of his sentence. While he’ll be living in a home environment, his movements outside of the house will be closely restricted and tightly regulated,” they wrote in an Oct. 26 blog post.

In an open letter from Violette posted on the blog on June 17, Violette described life at Bolduc, a minimum security facility, saying, “Nothing is perfect but I couldn’t ask for much more.”

Violette said he shared a prison room with “good roommates” and that he made “several good friends” with whom he socialized in prison and shared meals. He helped other inmates write letters, apply for jobs and understand legal documents. He was approved to work as a full-time volunteer at the Thomaston Public Library.

“I’ve just started this job but already I am working on a number of tasks and projects including getting familiar with the library’s collection, working at the circulation desk, helping with a database project about a local cemetery, helping patrons find books, covering and repairing books, etc. There’s a ton of work to be done and I’m happy to help however I can,” Violette said in the letter. “Besides giving me the great opportunity to work in the community, my job at the library means that I am able to earn two additional ‘good time’ days per month off my sentence, from seven days to nine.”

Violette did not respond to a request for an interview filed through the Department of Corrections.

Peter Mills, who replaced Violette as the Turnpike Authority’s director, said he was contacted by the Department of Corrections since the authority is considered the “victim” of Violette’s crimes. Mills, in turn, notified the Turnpike Authority board.

(Continued on page 2)

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