Updated as of 5/1/17 at 11:43am ET.
Maine Media Collective—publisher of Maine Magazine among a handful of other local titles—announced Monday that it’s canceling the annual Kennebunkport Festival and exploring a sale of the company following an allegation that its owner Kevin Thomas assaulted a former employee and then bullied her into resigning.
“We are doing so because we don’t want recent news about Maine Media Collective to cast a shadow over the festival,” reads a note posted on the festival’s website.
The announcement comes days after Jessie Lacey—who spent four years with the company as art director for Maine Home + Design from 2006 to 2010—detailed in a Medium post a 2010 encounter with Thomas, in which her then-boss allegedly touched her thigh, pushed her against a wall and “forcefully kissed her” without permission.
Lacey says she was driven to speak out about Thomas’s behavior after hearing similar accounts from other women.
“I deserve to make this public and other women deserve to know who this man, Kevin Thomas, truly is,” she wrote.
In a statement given to the Portland Press Herald, Thomas acknowledged that he was wrong in attempting to kiss Lacey, but disputed her account of the incident.
“The truth is, eight years ago, I asked Jessie’s permission to kiss her, twice. And twice, she said yes,” Thomas wrote. “Was it wrong? Of course. I was her employer, she was my employee. And we were friends.”
In interviews published last week by local magazine The Bollard, Lacey and a handful of anonymous current and former employees elaborate on a “toxic atmosphere” fostered by executives at the Maine Media Collective, which Thomas co-founded in 2008 with Susan Grisanti, who stepped down as editor-in-chief of Maine Magazine late in 2016.
An open letter from Maine Media Collective CEO Andrea King, who joined the company in 2016, invited readers to contact her directly “to join in this important discussion,” but stopped short of addressing the allegations directly.
King is due to speak on a panel at the inaugural Maine Women’s Conference next week. Meanwhile, the official Facebook page for Moxie Maine, a new magazine launched by the Maine Media Collective earlier this year and devoted to sharing “the empowering stories of Maine women,” appears to have been taken offline.
Update: King released a follow-up statement Monday evening, confirming that the Maine Media Collective has “begun looking into options for transferring ownership from Kevin Thomas.”
“The issues brought to light by our former colleague Jessie Lacey are serious and of great concern to us,” added King. “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.”