- Associated Press - Friday, May 23, 2014

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - Maine Gov. Paul LePage said on Friday that his administration has suspended payments to a consultant hired amid concerns that it plagiarized parts of a report on the state’s welfare and Medicaid programs.

The Republican governor said he’s looking into the allegations made regarding the Alexander Group and could take further action, including termination of the contract and attempting to recoup past payments, if they’re found to be true.

“If there and improprieties and if there are things of poor quality in that report, there will be severe consequences for the contractor,” LePage told reporters.

The Bangor Daily News reported earlier this week that some paragraphs of the report released last week were copied from Center on Budget and Policy Priorities documents. The report did cite CBPP, but didn’t make clear that it was quoting its work.

On Friday, The Portland Press Herald reported that a plagiarism expert had reviewed the report and found that it had used several other sources without properly attributing or citing their work.

LePage’s administration hired the group led by Gary Alexander, the former welfare chief of Rhode Island and Pennsylvania, for nearly $1 million last year to help find cost savings in its welfare and Medicaid programs.

LePage said that the payments were suspended on Wednesday. The total amount being withheld is more than $420,000, his office said.

The group has submitted two reports to the state, including one released last week detailing dozens of recommendations for transforming Maine’s Medicaid and welfare programs, which has raised the plagiarism concerns.

Alexander did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press on Friday. But he said in a statement through the Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday that it “failed to ensure that intended footnotes were included.”

“Such usage is never acceptable, and appropriate checks are being put in place to ensure that this unfortunate outcome is never repeated,” he said.

Democratic lawmakers, who tried and failed to cancel the state’s contract with Alexander last session, said suspending payments is not enough.

Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves of North Berwick said in a statement that the work is fraudulent and no amount of fraud should be tolerated.

“The contract should be canceled like we have been saying since day one,” he said. “This has been an egregious waste of taxpayer dollars meant only to boost the governor’s election campaign.”

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