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Former Maine Today CEO Accused of Taking More Than Half a Million from Company
04/24/2013   Reported By: Keith Shortall

The CEO of the Portland Press Herald says its former publisher, Richard Connor, took more than half-a-million dollars from the company between 2009 and 2011. An attorney for Connor denies the allegations, and says the expenses in question were being sorted out when the newspaper cut off discussions with Connor. Keith Shortall has more.

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Former Maine Today CEO Accused of Taking More Than
Originally Aired: 4/24/2013 5:30 PM

It's taken several independent forensic accounting reviews over nearly a year, but MaineToday Media CEO Lisa DeSisto says in a letter to employees that Richard Connor misused more than $537,000 while serving as publisher. Boston Attorney Tom Fitzpatrick represents the newspaper's parent company Maine Today Media.

He says the company has chosen not to file suit against Connor, and instead took a payout from its insurance company, Travelers Casualty & Surety Company, to cover the loss.

"Travelers has made the determination that a half million dollars of money was taken by Mr. Connor that he was not justified in taking and that it consituted employee theft under its insurance policy with Maine Today Media, and that's what employees were informed of today," Fitzpatrick says.

The company alleges that Connor misappropriated the money for his personal use during the 27 months he worked there - including $287,000 in unauthorized salary increases and bonuses, $90,000 in unauthorized personal expenses, and $22,000 in unauthorized checks for home landscaping, dental work and a vacation rental in Camden.

Fitzpatrick says Maine Today Media decided to file a claim under insurance in order to move forward, rather than take the issue to court.

"What they want to do is move on," he says. "They have employees that have supported the company through tough times and they need to keep the paper propelled forward to stay on their mission. And that was the choice and one that I certainly agree with."

An attorney represenating Richard Connor says his client did not misuse any funds while at Maine Today Media. "We flatly deny it," says Portland attorney Peter Bennett. "Everything Mr. Connor did was done above board."

Bennett says the newspaper's board had authorized the expenses, and that Connor was in the process of sorting out the accounting, when the newspaper abruptly ended contact. "When Rich was working there, there were discussions about what expenses were his and what weren't his," Bennett says. "The newspaper cut off those discussions a year and a half ago."

Bennett says once the true facts are brought to light, the allegations, which Connor feels are very unfair, will be refuted. "He feels like he's being maligned, yes."

In her letter to employees, DeSisto points out that Maine Today Media is not the only company to have financial problems with Connor. His previous employer, Wilkes-Barre Publishing LLC in Pennsylvania, filed suit against him, alleging failure to repay more than $250,000 used to pay for personal expenses, including credit cards.

Connor has blamed that legal dispute on poor accounting and insists he's working to sort it out. Travelers Insurance, meanwhile, could go after Connor to recoup the money it paid out in its claim to Maine Today Media.


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