Business

Ex-media chief is accused of funds theft

Richard Connor was also sued by a Pennsylvania publishing firm.
Richard Connor was also sued by a Pennsylvania publishing firm.

The former chief executive of a media group that publishes the Portland Press Herald in Maine has been accused by his former employer of misusing more than $500,000 of company money.

Richard L. Connor, who led MaineToday Media from 2009 to 2011, gave himself unauthorized raises and charged the company for personal expenses, including vacation home rentals and a new car for his son, according to a memo sent to employees Wednesday by MaineToday’s current publisher, Lisa DeSisto.

Connor has denied any wrongdoing.

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DeSisto said the allegation is the result of “several independent forensic accounting reviews” conducted over a nearly a year. MaineToday Media’s insurer has paid the company $537,988.68, less a $50,000 deductible, under an employee theft insurance policy as reimbursement for money allegedly taken by Connor.

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Connor’s alleged theft came at a time when MaineToday Media was struggling financially and came close to filing for bankruptcy protection. To help weather the storm, the company made deep staff cuts.

DeSisto said, “There is the possibility of further legal action on these issues.”

Connor has been accused of misusing company dollars before. After his departure from MaineToday Media, but before the group made its allegations public, Wilkes-Barre Publishing in Pennsylvania sued Connor. It claimed he used company money to pay for more than $250,000 of personal credit card charges while he served as chief executive of the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader between 2006 and 2011.

At MaineToday Media, DeSisto said in the memo that, “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.

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“In fact, the former CEO went through four chief financial officers in just over two years,” DeSisto said. “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.”

Callum Borchers can be reached at callum.borchers@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.