Vote or Quit Bitchin’ 2018

Shawn Moody’s Greasy Secrets

illustration/Martin Shields

“If I were the king of the world / Tell you what I’d do / I’d throw away the cars and the bars and the war / Make sweet love to you”

Three Dog Night, “Joy to the World”

In this year’s Voters’ Guide, we have five secrets to share with you about Shawn Moody, and the first is that the Republican candidate to be Maine’s next governor is a closet Marxist.

How do we know this? Well, just look at the way he runs his company, Moody’s Collision Centers. Moody doesn’t just hire employees; he willingly hands them co-ownership of the means of production and a share of the profits their labor creates above and beyond their wages. Every three months, the worker-owners of Moody’s Collision hold a communal conclave that would make ol’ Karl proud. Management opens the books so they can see how much money they’ve collectively earned, and according to the company’s website, “everyone has an opportunity to share his or her suggestions, ideas and feedback.”

The website spells out the goals of collective ownership using language the revolutionary Russian Bolsheviks of a century ago would fully embrace: “a broader distribution of wealth” and the “[maximization of] human potential by enhancing the self-worth, dignity, and wellbeing of our co-workers.”

The Marxist principles Moody has implemented have made the company he co-owns with his hard-working comrades a phenomenal success. Since the collective ownership system was installed in 2003, the company has grown by an average of over 18 percent every year, according to its website, and is now the largest independently owned auto-body business in all of New England.

Were Moody, as governor, to apply and promote these cooperative business practices to the state as a whole, Maine would be the most politically progressive and, at least on a per-capita basis, the most prosperous state in the nation. By comparison, the “Action Plan for Maine’s Economic Future” put forward by his ostensibly more leftist Democratic opponent, Janet Mills, is weak tea indeed, a mishmash of bureaucratic reorganization, micro-loans and grants. Two of the Action Plan’s four new programs are designed to encourage Mainers to “work remotely.” Meanwhile, at Moody’s Collision, people work together and are trusted to work hard to make the enterprise they jointly own profitable for all. “[N]o one that works at Moody’s has ever ‘swiped’ a time card or ‘punched’ a clock,” the website declares. “We believe and promote co-worker ownership with responsibility to each other” [emphasis not added].

How deeply ingrained is Moody’s commitment to collective ownership and redistribution of wealth? The second secret strongly suggests that he would like to see this radical vision of worker equality spread across the globe. According to an elementary-school classmate of Moody’s from Gorham, who spoke to The Bollard on condition of anonymity, Moody “introduced” a song to his fifth-grade music class and “got us all singing it.”

The name of the tune: “Joy to the World,” by Three Dog Night, which came out that same year, 1970. In retrospect, the song’s celebration of wine drinking, straight shootin’ and sweet lovemaking make it seem an inappropriate choice for a prepubescent chorus, but its explicit embrace of world peace and ecological harmony is a lesson that’s more valuable than ever these days. By comparison, the best Mills can do is pledge to oppose off-shore oil and gas drilling to protect industry’s ability to mass murder the fishes of the deep blue sea.

Shawn Moody’s 1978 high school yearbook photo.

Moody’s sociopolitical enlightenment coincided with his dream to open an auto-repair shop. According to classmate Greg Stump, who was president of Moody’s senior class at Gorham High School in 1978, Moody “never listened to the teacher” in the fifth-grade classrooms they shared. He was too busy drawing logos and pictures of an imaginary garage. “He was designing his dream auto shop,” said Stump, a film producer now based on the West Coast. “You could feel it back then. … You could tell he was driven to get that business going.”

The name of that business was Midnight Auto. Moody got it open and running in the fall of his senior year. Which brings us to Secret #3.

“Midnight Auto” is a slang term for any car-repair shop that uses stolen parts. And according to multiple people who knew Moody back then, it was rumored that that’s exactly how Shawn procured at least some of the parts for his business. During a series of off-record conversations with The Bollard, one former classmate said Moody routinely stole parts under cover of darkness from the junkyard down the street, a yard operated by a man named Clint Allen. According to press reports, Moody’s mother married Allen in 1975 and she and Shawn moved into his house, but the union — which Shawn had opposed — lasted less than a year.

A recent profile of Moody in the Portland Press Herald notes that he cajoled his ex-stepfather to sell him a piece of the junkyard property in 1977. A decade later, Allen sold the entire property to Moody, who “cleaned up the junkyard and the company’s books,” the Bangor Daily News wrote in 2010. Moody proceeded to “turn the decrepit junkyard into a state-of-the-art automobile recycling operation where he would make his millions,” Herald reporter Colin Woodard wrote this year.

Moody did not respond to repeated requests for comment, including an e-mail to his campaign spokeswoman, Lauren LePage (the current governor’s daughter), that specifically asked about that allegation and others. Some classmates contacted by The Bollard said they never heard rumors that Moody was stealing parts for Midnight Auto. But as Stump noted, Moody “fell off the radar” after elementary school. The BDN reported that through a vocational co-op program, Moody only attended school part-time “and worked the rest of the day — and night — at his garage.”

No one disputes that Moody worked hard and made some savvy business decisions along the way. After another decade recycling car parts at the old junkyard site, Moody sold the business to a Chicago-based company called LKQ Corp. and made millions. He used some of that capital to establish Moody’s Collision Centers in 2001, and has since grown it into a chain with 11 locations in southern and central Maine. The new business’ logo proudly declares that Moody’s is “co-worker owned.”

The 200 worker-owners of Moody’s are the ones who’ve made the business boom, and the key is their stake in the enterprise. “The Holy Grail is to have everybody think like an owner and to do the little things, the little extra to make sure the customers and their vehicles are taken care of,” Moody told Woodard this summer. The candidate’s religious zeal for this socialist-style business structure inspired Moody to co-found a statewide organization of comrades who also offer employees a piece of the capital pie through what’s known as an Employee Stock Ownership Plan, or ESOP.

This brings us to Secret #4: Moody is a crummy Marxist. He’s much too stingy with the profits others work to generate for him, and though workers are invited to provide feedback at quarterly meetings, they have no actual decision-making power over the conditions of their labor, including pay, benefits, day-to-day responsibilities, and hiring and firing decisions. Moody retains dictatorial control over all that.

Although the worker-owners collectively own a third of the company, they receive only 10 percent of after-tax profits, according to the Press Herald. Moody owns the other two-thirds, and is the sole owner of a limited-liability real-estate company whose portfolio of properties includes Moody’s Collision Center locations, according to the BDN. That means the worker-owners pay Moody rent for the body shops where they labor. Karl would not approve.

Moody was the only gubernatorial candidate among the four running for the office this year who refused to provide the press with tax returns detailing his income for the past five years and the sources of that income. He told the BDN that he decided to keep that information secret after consulting with worker-owners at Moody’s, who are apparently concerned that those numbers could reveal the size of their 10-percent slice of the body-shop profits.

Enter Secret #5. The way the money is divvied up isn’t the only aspect of Moody’s operations that Shawn wants to keep under wraps. There’s also an ugly firing in late 2005 that led to the filing of a sexual-discrimination complaint against the company with the Maine Human Rights Commission. The complaint was formally withdrawn after Moody’s apparently reached a “Settlement Agreement” with the worker in the summer of 2006, so no formal finding was made by the Commission.

Here’s what we do know. The worker — whose name appears in Commission documents, but whom The Bollard is not naming out of respect for her privacy and that of her young son — told state investigators that she started working for Moody’s Collision Centers in November of 2003, and was never “disciplined for poor performance or for violation of any workplace rules.” In October of 2007, she went on an eight-week maternity leave, but was planning (and banking) on being able to return to work at Moody’s in December of that year.

“While I was on leave, the owner of the company [Moody] told me that I could not return to work in December after expiration of my leave,” the woman stated in her formal discrimination complaint. The new mother said Moody told her: “You are no longer going to be able to do the job … now that you have [your infant son],” “I know you gave me 210% of yourself, but you won’t be able to do the job now that you have [the baby],” “I want to see you grow and now that you have [the baby] I’m not sure that you can do that in this job.”

The Bollard specifically asked Moody, in writing, to comment on this matter, and got no response. The complainant also did not respond to requests for comment, but may be bound by a non-disclosure agreement, signed as part of a settlement, to keep quiet about the incident. The lawyer Moody’s hired to handle the complaint, Anne Carney, who was with the Portland firm Norman, Hanson & Detroy at the time, also blew off multiple requests for comment. The complainant’s lawyer has since died. Carney has since left the law firm and is currently running as a Democrat for a seat in the Maine House of Representatives representing Cape Elizabeth.

So, to recap, Shawn Moody: closet commie who embraced radical ideas as a child, but who then was rumored to have used crime, and definitely used capitalism, to become mega-rich and build a new company that uses Marxist “worker-owned” rhetoric to mask greedy practices including, allegedly, firing a single mother weeks after she had a child and thus needed her job more desperately than ever. Oh, and just before the holidays, too.