The members of Maine’s legislative Government Oversight Committee voted unanimously to launch a formal investigation into whether Republican Governor Paul LePage improperly used taxpayer money to force Good Will-Hinckley to fire House Speaker Mark Eves.
Eves, a Democrat, had been hired by Good Will-Hinckley to serve as its President, but the offer was withdrawn after Governor LePage allegedly threatened to withhold 530,000 dollars in annual funding for Good Will-Hinckley’s Charter School, the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences. LePage has admitted that he threatened to pull funding unless Good Will-Hinckley terminated their employment agreement with Eves, but the governor insists what he did does not amount to blackmail.
Good Will-Hinckley has agreed to pay Eves 30,000 dollars for severing the employment contract. Eves is planning on filing a federal civil rights lawsuit against Governor LePage for his role in forcing Good Will-Hinckley to end the employment agreement.
The bipartisan Government Oversight Committee has six Democratic and six Republican members. Members of both parties are calling for an investigation. Republican Party co-chair Roger Katz, wasn’t quite prepared to throw his Governor under the bus, but even he acknowledged that the Governor’s behavior warranted an investigation. Katz stated:
The events of the last few weeks involving Good Will-Hinckley are troubling and, as often happens in partisan politics, it seems that some people are going to their corners and are ready to fight. Most people in Maine just want to know what happened.
LePage’s legal team argues that the Government Oversight Committee does not have the authority to investigate the governor. Eves’ attorney, David Webbert rejected that absurd argument, stating:
The governor’s wrongful refusal to submit to any oversight by the Legislature regarding his use of funds appropriated by the Legislature is consistent with his wrongful and dangerous view that he can use state funds to blackmail a school with the threat of the loss of state funds.
Governor LePage and his legal team seem to believe that the governor should be allowed to do as he pleases without accountability or oversight. However, members of both parties in the legislature disagree with LePage’s dictatorial view of the governor’s scope of authority. The unanimous vote to investigate the governor is a sign that even his own party has grown weary of LePage’s corruption and the bullying tactics he uses to get his way.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.