Richard Connor, publisher of Portland Press Herald and other MaineToday Media publications from June 2009 until October 2011, is accused of inappropriate use of company funds, including taking $287,224.78 in unauthorized salary increases and bonuses, and using $70,352.49 in MTM funds to pay off his personal American Express bill. He’s also accused of using MaineToday money to buy his son a Chevy Suburban. (He made that purchase three days on the job.)
Here is what Maine Today Media CEO Lisa DiSisto tells employees:
Letter to MaineToday Media Employees
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Friends and colleagues,
MaineToday Media has been under new ownership for one year and I have been CEO and publisher since the end of last year. This is a new company. We have a terrific team. We are hiring top quality people, producing award-winning journalism, building stronger relationships with our customers and investing in the future.
We need to remain focused on accomplishing our goals for 2013 and beyond, but today I am compelled to share some information about the past.
For the majority of you who worked here between June 2009 and October 2011, there have long been concerns, discussions and rumors about how company resources were used during that period. From what I have been told, it was a difficult time and employees worked to continue the company’s proud, 150-year tradition of serving Maine communities with quality journalism. /CONTINUES
New ownership has been focused on restoring financial health to MTM. One aspect of that effort over the past year has involved investigating whether there were funds used inappropriately by the former CEO that could be recouped and reinvested in the company.
It has taken several independent forensic accounting reviews and almost a year, but today I am sharing the results of those reviews with you.
After an extensive review of documents and interviews with current and former employees, Travelers Casualty & Surety Company recently paid MTM $537,988.68 (minus $50,000.00 deductible) under the company’s employee theft insurance policy as a result of funds former CEO Richard Connor took from the company for unauthorized personal use during his twenty-seven months with the company.
Travelers’ decision to pay MTM $537,988.68 (less a $50,000.00 deductible for a total payment of $487,988.68) identified and reimbursed the following employee theft by Mr. Connor between June 2009 and October 2011 when he departed the company:
· $287,224.78 in unauthorized salary increases and bonuses
· $90,381.32 in unauthorized personal expenses charged to MTM company credit cards
· $70,352.49 in unauthorized payment of personal American Express card bills with MTM funds
· $36,089.74 in unauthorized compensation for and use of company automobiles, including the purchase of a new Chevy Suburban for his son three days after he started at MTM.
· $22,940.35 in unauthorized hand-written checks drafted by or at the direction of Connor for items including home landscaping, personal dental work and a $6,000.00 Camden vacation rental.
· $16,000.00 in unauthorized use of company funds to pay for another Camden vacation rental.
· $10,000.00 in an unauthorized wire transfer to Richard Connor
· And $5,000.00 in claim expenses
Mr. Connor was able to conceal his activity for as long as he did partly because company officers charged with financial oversight and reporting were frequently replaced. In fact, the former CEO went through four chief financial officers in just over two years. When the former Board of Directors finally selected and installed its own, trusted CFO it was only a matter of a few months before Mr. Connor’s financial self-dealing was uncovered and he was out as CEO.
It turns out MTM is not the only company to have experienced this type of behavior by Mr. Connor. Seven months after his departure from MTM, a lawsuit was initiated by his previous employer, Wilkes-Barre Publishing, LLC in Pennsylvania, claiming that while Connor was CEO of the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader newspaper he “engaged in a pattern of causing the (company) to transfer cash to him for personal use and using the (company) to satisfy personal credit card charges” for a total of $250,123.50 between 2006 and 2011.
We are advised that there is the possibility of further legal action on these issues and as a result, we are limited in our ability to provide additional information at this time.
However, we did feel it was important to share this information with many of you who lived through that very difficult, uncertain period. You should know that we have aggressively, successfully recouped and reinvested nearly a half a million dollars.
Today we are working together on a plan to grow MaineToday Media. We believe that starts with integrity, transparency and trust – in how we work together and in the relationships we build with our readers and customers across Maine.
Thank you for your continued dedication in making our efforts successful. Let’s keep our focus on the future of MTM.