May 1, 2018

Maine Media Collective severs ties with owner, cancels festival

Courtesy / Kennebunkport Festival website
Courtesy / Kennebunkport Festival website
Maine Media Collective announced Monday on the website of the Kennebunkport Festival that it was canceling the June 4-9 event, following published allegations that its owner, Kevin Thomas, had made unwanted sexual advances against a female employee eight years ago. Later on Monday, Maine Media Publisher and CEO Andrea King sent an email to clients stating Thomas “has ended involvement with the company effective immediately.”

Hours after canceling this year's Kennebunkport Festival in the wake of eight-year-old allegations of sexual harassment against its owner that became public last week, Maine magazine says its owner and former publisher Kevin Thomas "has ended involvement with the company effective immediately."

The sudden severing of ties with Thomas was announced by Andrea King, publisher and CEO of Maine Media Collective, in an email sent Monday evening to clients that was forwarded to Mainebiz. The cancellation of the food-based festival was announced on the festival's website earlier on Monday.

Both actions stem from allegations made by Jessie Lacey, a former designer for Maine Media Collective, who wrote an essay published last week on the website Medium alleging that Thomas made unwanted sexual advances while she was an employee in March 2010.

The allegations were included in a cover story published by The Bollard last Thursday and by the Portland Press Herald on Saturday. The Bollard article characterized Lacey's period of employment at what evolved into Maine Media Collective as being a stressful time for her due to the alleged sexual advances and other situations that created a hostile work environment for her and other employees.

In her email to clients, Maine Media Publisher and CEO Andrea King alluded to those additional allegations.

"My colleagues and I at Maine Media Collective were stunned by recent news coverage about our organization," she wrote. "The issues brought to light by our former colleague Jessie Lacey are serious and of great concern to us. While the working conditions Ms. Lacey described in her blog post relate to the alleged actions of former management eight years ago, we want to apologize and assure you in the strongest possible way that such conditions are neither present nor tolerated at MMC today."

King noted that two other people singled out in The Bollard article as contributing to the alleged hostile workplace — former editor-in-chief Susan Grisanti and Jack Leonardi, who oversaw the Portland Art Gallery and Art Collector Maine — no longer work for the company. Grisanti left in 2016 and Leonardi resigned, King stated, adding that the latter's resignation "was in the best interest of the company and the artists we serve."

"We have begun looking into options for transferring ownership from Kevin Thomas," she wrote. "This cannot be done within days, but we are examining various options as quickly as possible."

King concluded that she is "fully committed to resolving this matter fairly, accurately and adequately as soon as possible so that we may begin the process of rebuilding your trust."

"No one should be subject to the sort of conditions described by Ms. Lacey," King wrote. "Such behavior is simply and completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated by us. Ever."

Kennenbunkport Festival canceled

Under the banner "Grateful for your support," Maine Media Collective announced earlier Monday that it was canceling the Kennebunkport Festival, which was slated to run June 4-9.

"We are doing so because we don't want recent news reports about Maine Media Collective to cast a shadow over the festival," stated the notice posted on the festival website. "We are grateful for the support of our sponsors and advertisers and to all of you who have purchased tickets. All ticket holders will receive a full refund. We would also like to thank members of the chef and business communities who have stepped up their efforts to do what they can to make donations to Full Plates Full Potential.

Please note that some of the restaurant community may be holding dinners to benefit Full Plates Full Potential. We will have no affiliation with those events, and we hope that you will support them."

The Portland Press Herald reported today that a number of restaurants and businesses who had been planning to be involved in this year's festival had notified Maine Media Collective they were withdrawing due to the nature of the allegations made against Thomas.

Read more

'New' Kennebunkport Festival seen as big success

Investor group with a range of business interests buys Maine Media Collective's assets

'Grassroots' coalition steps in to save Kennebunkport Festival

Breaking: Kennebunkport Festival 2018 is a 'go' after all


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