Federal agents examine Maine unemployment files

AUGUSTA — Federal agents visited the Maine Department of Labor on Tuesday and Wednesday to meet with officials at the Bureau of Unemployment Compensation.

Legislative officials said Wednesday the auditors were examining unemployment files in response to reports that administrative hearing officers were pressured by Gov. Paul LePage to skew appeals cases in favor of employers.

Barbara D'Amore, workforce security chief at the U.S. Department of Labor, met with bureau head Laura Boyett for more than four hours on Tuesday, according to department sign-in logs. John Murphy, from the regional employment and training administration in Boston, was at the department with D'Amore on Wednesday, meeting with Boyett from 8:15 to 10:30 a.m.

A spokesman at the department declined to comment on why the federal agents were at the state agency. D'Amore also declined to comment, referring all calls to a federal spokesman; that spokesman did not respond to the Sun Journal's request for information. 

A Sun Journal investigation cited sources in a report last week that LePage had called Department of Labor employees to a mandatory March 21 luncheon at the Blaine House and scolded them for finding too many unemployment benefit appeals cases in favor of workers after receiving complaints from business interests. They were told they were doing their jobs poorly, sources said. Afterward, they said they felt abused, harassed and bullied by the governor.

Senate Democrats briefed media Wednesday to say that Department of Labor Commissioner Jeanne Paquette told legislative leaders that the federal agents were responding to allegations arising from the March 21 luncheon, but didn't confirm that a formal investigation was under way, Senate Democrats' spokeswoman Ericka Dodge said.

Senate Majority Leader Seth Goodall, D-Richmond, said the allegations of pressure by the governor's office were “disturbing.”

David Webbert, president of the Maine Employment Lawyers Association, sent a six-page letter Monday to federal officials at the U.S. Department of Labor, urging an “immediate investigation” of LePage and “other high-level officials for violations of federal laws requiring the impartial and prompt administration of unemployment insurance benefits.”

The U.S. Department of Labor, in confirming receipt of Webbert's complaint, noted that the Office of the Inspector General's Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations will review and evaluate the complaint and "make a determination as to the most appropriate course of action."

In explaining why the Maine Employment Lawyers Association felt the need to bring this matter to federal investigators so quickly, Webbert said, “The hearing officers really are unable to defend themselves because they perform a judicial function. ... They’re not supposed to take sides. So this is a terrible situation for them, being dragged through the mud.” 

He said he wanted the hearing officers to be able to do their jobs without feeling outside pressure from political influences.

And, he said, "it is not surprising that the United States Department of Labor has begun an immediate investigation, given the unusually strong evidence that Gov. LePage broke federal laws protecting the rights of Maine workers," pointing out that the governor's staff confirmed he called the March 21 meeting "based on complaints from business owners upset over rulings for workers."

...

LePage intends to sign an executive order to establish a blue ribbon commission to investigate Maine’s unemployment compensation system, according to a news statement issued by his office Wednesday afternoon.

Politically motivated demands for the U.S. Department of Labor to investigate a lunch meeting I had with hearings officers are based on anonymous allegations in media reports,” LePage said in the statement.

Webbert said that is not true.

"Much of the evidence of the governor’s unlawful interference are oral and written statements by the governor’s top officials, the internal emails and memos released by the governor and the additional emails made public," Webbert said Wednesday. These items are the basis of the labor attorney group's complaint.

LePage, in the news release, defended his actions to meet with hearing officers, and said media reports and the federal complaint are part of an “orchestrated effort ... designed to distract Mainers from the real issue, which is inconsistencies in the unemployment system. But, I remain focused on assuring Mainers that there is fair and consistent application of the law throughout the process. That’s why I am calling for an all-encompassing investigation of the entire system.”

But Webbert said the blue ribbon commission is a move by LePage to "control the investigation of his own wrongdoing by appointing his own investigators. That is not the way justice works in a free society."

LePage's office said the blue ribbon commission would include representatives of both employers and employees.

The goal of the commission would be to ensure Maine’s Unemployment Insurance system provides benefits for workers who are rightly entitled to them, while ensuring businesses are not charged when they let employees go appropriately, LePage said.

Additionally, the commission will review the rules and laws governing the system to ensure they are consistently applied.

Let’s take an in-depth look at the state’s entire unemployment compensation system to make sure that it is fair and consistent for all Mainers,” LePage said in the statement.

Also on Wednesday, the Legislature's Labor Committee conducted a public hearing on a bill submitted by the Maine Department of Labor on April 2, presented by Sen. John Patrick, D-Rumford, to amend the laws governing unemployment compensation to ensure conformity with the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance Extension Act of 2011.

That bill, which was submitted under a joint rule that allows state departments to submit bills, was drafted and presented before allegations arose that the governor may have unduly pressured unemployment hearing officers to tilt their decisions pro-business.

The bill would, if passed, permit a 15 percent penalty on anyone who fraudulently misrepresents himself or herself for unemployment compensation, and would prohibit an employer from seeking relief of benefit payments if they (or their agent) are found to have failed to provide timely or adequate information to the Department of Labor of an unemployment benefit claim.

"In light of the recent issue of potential bullying, we might have to add language that rectifies the potential problem that is currently going on," Patrick said in presenting the bill.

cwilliams@sunjournal.com

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Comments

Catherine Pressey's picture

In light of the:

bullying some that I comment on like these stories I just want to say that I very much like the entertainment, and I continue to look forward to comment with passion, about stories that I deem interesting. The other side of the equation is I personally know people that have had employers lie to keep from having to pay the unemployment fees, for that worker. Luckily the people that make the decisions, see right through the double talk. So, yes my comments are made with passion. And Humor, not that everyone can get that point. Yep! My opinions lol take them or leave them!

Bob White's picture

What's your point? I don't

What's your point? I don't know if you read the paper their are stories in it everyday of people doing horrible things but does it make all people bad? I hope you see the point I'm making. If not I can have my 10 year old nephew explain it to you.

Catherine Pressey's picture

LOL ya canna tell us what your point is!

Ya want us to believe you talk over what is on you mind with your ten year old nephew, NO BOB I can not read so I do not read the paper. There are many bad things that happen each day. Lots of kids go to bed hungry, and cold, yet many say their parents are lazy is that your point. YES PLEASE HAVE YOUR NEPHEW EXPLAIN YOUR POINT. LOL Ya canna help yourself, with the insults make ya feel tall does it? Yes you just proved how horrible people can be to others just trying to comment. Yep! aaire you mean to ya nephew too!

Bob White's picture

One more thing maybe if all

One more thing maybe if all these companies that you talk about that have left wouldn't have been run out of town by the tree huggers and all the lefties maybe those hungry kids you talk about their parents would have jobs today but I'm sure you see it differently its been nice chatting good night

Catherine Pressey's picture

Bob White ya mind is a mess:

"all these companies that you talk about that have left wouldn't have been run out of town by the tree huggers and all the lefties maybe those hungry kids you talk about their parents would have jobs today but I'm sure you see it" First of all what for example is a tree hugger, guess that one must be a wee bit new or for younger, you know if you want to comment it is alright to speak out without beating around the bush. Businesses could give a rats ass if the families can pay the rent buy food and oil to heat their apartments.
If companies left our shores it is all about GREED and yes I see things differently, to bad more Rich would care to share the wealth, with their fellow man. OR woman. Yep! in the Chat one may learn a new trick! good day to you also.

Bob White's picture

Play the blame game I always

Play the blame game I always say I don't want to hear excuses just solutions that's what makes us different

Bob White's picture

Business don't have rights?

Business don't have rights? You people act like business is the evil monsters don't forget those evil monsters pay for your governmental programs Oooo yes and pay for the food you will eat tonight.

Catherine Pressey's picture

Missed email Business hogwash:

Taxes on business, like to see really how much Business pays after all the tax loop holes that they have, like Mitt Romney his house keeper pays more taxes than he does, so I guess she and others like her, all the way up the middle class pay for those Government programs YOOOOU so hate to see supply people with Food, heat ass. Rent ass. and all things needed, heck I bet those house keepers have to get food stamps and rent help. With the pittance of pay the rich deep appropriate. One more thing let me make my self clear, I do not get food stamps and do not qualify, nor do I choose to take from the soup kitchens or food banks. Far more people around that need these services than I. And Mr. White I hope and promise that the good lord will one day show you, either by a awful loss of income or some awful disability, how humiliating it is to know you may need food stamps and or canna find a job because of either limited ability due to the loss of some body function. No one ever sad business is the evil monster it is the owners that do pay less than livable wages use those workers to the point that their hands no longer function or their bodies are now used up and this is not by age 65 many overuse syndromes are brought about by greed of your so called not evil business. Than W/C rates go out of sight, than business says ohhhh so high we will remedy that by taking those jobs to China or elsewhere. Than you and other so called hate mongers say it is the so called takers fault. GET THIS IF THE BUSINESSES PAID A DECENT WAGE, HIRED ENOUGH PEOPLE, DID NOT PUSH THE WORKERS SO MUCH THAT THEY GET HURT OR OVERUSE SYNDOMES, OR JUST TREAT THEM LIKE LESS THAN ANIMALS. AND WHEN THE BUSINESS FIRES THEM FOR ANY REASON AND NO REASON. who than in the next business want to hire a worker that now has hand trouble or can not stand for a long period of time. Like many flaggers jobs, they do not even get a break work all day with no ten minute breaks. While the outfit/business gets rich on the back off all workers. Owners GREEED create the so called governmental programs. Proven that the middle class from the highest to the lowest. Are the ones that are paying for those programs, they can not hide under masses of loop holes like the business does. I see a neighbor over here owners a Harley new vehicles for the business every other year. Deliverers firewood, a load for the government and several for himself. What I am saying is cash money goes into the pocket. Heck even have seen him put oil K-1 in his home oil tank out of the business truck, you know the one they use to fill the skidder tanks. And this is at the bottom of the Greed and this is stealing from us all. Because Greed does not pay tax on what one puts into his pocket by way of cash. To bad Uncle Sam would not investigate the life style and bank accounts these people have. All the way up to the top. Yep Evil does live in the USA. Have a good day. Mr. White.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

We had a farm in Greene

I started K school in Greene, lived on the top of Merrill Hill Rd off road, which is now Packards Rd. First old farm on the left. My Grandmother Lessard had 76 acres back in 1957 - 65, then went to my Uncle Roland Lessard, you familiar with the Dosties' on Merrill Hill road?

I see the barn is gone from the Google satellite.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

Taxpayers Dollars, Thousands & Millions stolen by Evil Business

Conn. Issues Stop Work Orders to 27 Construction Firms for Misclassifying Workers

http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/east/2013/04/04/287290.htm
_______________________
CFO Atwater Announces Arrests of Two Miami-Dade County Residents for $35 Million in Fraudulent Transactions in ‘Operation Dirty Money’ Scheme

http://www.myfloridacfo.com/sitePages/newsroom/pressRelease.aspx?id=4161

____________________

Feds sue Utah firms, seeking damages for 800 workers

http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/money/56144420-79/contracting-universal-wor...

______________________
business is the evil monsters don't forget those evil monsters .......business is the evil monsters don't forget those evil monsters

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

Bam

Facts hurt Repub/Tbaggers heads and they just disagree always to the hard facts...LOL...

Bob White's picture

I wonder

I just wonder what you people are going to say when they do a full investigation and guess what they find that nothing was done wrong. I'm sure that wont be good enough for you clowns. You people should be this critical to our president the stuff he is getting away with DEBT, LIES and every other minute their is a new crisis. Their was Iran the debit sealing the big government cuts and now its North Korea. What's next? I'm sure your to simple to see both sides but whatever

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

Careful what you wish for....

I just wonder what you are going to say when they do a full investigation and guess what, they find that everything was done wrong by the Gov. I'm sure that won't be good enough for you either.

Catherine Pressey's picture

Give you the I wonder about you.

As far as I am concerned our President is doing the best he can. And Businesses do not buy my food or the government you really are a funny bunny Bob White Businesses do not pay many if any taxes did you, not listen to Mittt the Nitt say he thought it was right that his house keeper paid more taxes than he did. Good grief you talk about lies Debt we would not have any of the debt if the Companies paid their share in taxes. Loooooop holes get it no taxes Mittt said so. LOL.

Bob White's picture

I wish I lived in your world.

I wish I lived in your world. Unless you grow your own food I would say you have a job ( business) that allows you to buy food. Then you yap about a guy who isn't in government anymore I don't know why you wasted our time with that. I would have thought you would have used the George Bush line oh that's right our president spent way more in less time. That is LOL I don't know if you know this with out businesses their wouldn't be a economy the government does not make a economy. I don't expect you to understand this but what I do expect from you will be more blaming everybody and more foolishness. Maybe were in debt because of all the free programs for all the non contributors

Catherine Pressey's picture

Well now that you mention it. Bush is to blame:

And all the others Dems or Rep. they all take big wages, live very well and you are right I do not understand your point. Let me set you now straight. Mr. Boooob White. Without the people that buy the products from the businesses and the people that are the drones/Workers to make the products that the businesses sell, from the Auto industry to the Tampons the women use. The people are the economy, and if your kind of attitude is that the small bit of money spent on programs for the, what you call non contributors, is the real one to blame. I am sick and tire of your kind putting the blame on the poor, get a life. The greed that built America is all around you. Your kind of thoughts show how truly unkind you are just like the companies that fire workers for no reason. Than turn around and claim the worker was this or that. The proof is in the pudding and a unbiased board sees right through the companies. God LePage is much like your kind, unkind all about who the heck gives a darn about the kids down the street. Mom is not highly educated, and the jobs she could be doing making piece work are gone elsewhere. BECAUSE OF GREED. Good day to you too!

Bob White's picture

This country was built on

This country was built on people that worked hard and got things done not by people that make excuses or look to blame someone else for their fortune. This is the way I choose to live my life. You have no idea what my kind is nor would i waste my breath trying to tell you" my kind" I don't need you to tell me to have a good day

Catherine Pressey's picture

This country was built on:

The backs of workers that for many years worked hard and in the end got a kick in the ass, only to then find the company looked for any reason to fire them, older workers cost employers more in W/C rates and other rates. So BBBooob do yourself a favor, do not tell me I know not how your are. Clearly your happy to insult others to put down the poor or those that can not find or keep a job. You do not know how to walk in their shoes. Nor would you wish to try, why would I or anyone blame someone for their fortune, that is a good thing fortune. Now bad fortune maybe. Yes choose your life and live it the way you wish just do not blame others that you do not know. And by the sound of your attitude you sure need a good day. lol

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Hey Bob, don't be so harsh............

If Catherine wishes to post here, she has a right to without being judged, You can agree with her, or disagree with her. I don't see an "insult" tab anywhere. I can't quite figure out if you are upset with what she said, or how she said it. I myself have been known to produce some "incoherent drivel", from time to time. If my point is correct, as Catherine's is, then what difference does it make? By the way, I also enjoy reading Steve's posts. Kind of like reading a puzzle, but very to the point.........

Catherine Pressey's picture

Yes Frank should I thank you? LOL

Yes JUUeest may be a wee bit of a puzzle when I post. LOL However mostly because I truly figure I will go on to long. My comment in this case was for sure not my whole thought in this matter. GOOD THING LOL incoherent drivel is my MO OH like I just blasted Bobbbbb I could now become Governor of Maine, ya can be dumb incoherent think your God and try to sway the people in charge of the decision making on unemployment benefits. Federal funded. Money with the state administering it. HUM! Yep! Guess anyone that can open mouth insert foot can now be a Governor. I for one would not want to be on a commission that he puts together to try to prove that the people that he bullied. Were doing their jobs badly. Yep! from the drivel mouth of the next Governor, thanks for protecting my right to comment. Judged and tarred and feathered lol Yep! Now where did I go??? To be continued, maybe.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Ya, got my vote....

Just make sure you don't forget us little folk after your elected...............

Doreen Sheive's picture

Must be terrible

Working for LePage must be very difficult in that you spend all your time going from one LePage created crisis to another. No way to run any office.

Bob Wright's picture

Catherine, your post is by

Catherine, your post is by far one of the worse pieces of incoherent drivel that I have ever read. It is far worse than any of Steve Dosh's ramblings.

Catherine Pressey's picture

Incoherent LOL

First of all Bob Wright, the first part of my comment is copied from the article, so I have to say tell your insult to the writer of the story, I can and will comment with my pieces of drivel as you call it. Must have been pretty good for you to honor me with your insults. Hey I am not the Governor of the State of Maine. He is the one with the drivel and the attitude towards, what is his real job is. Yes ramblings and nasty remarks, you say. OH THAT MAKE ME SMART ENOUGH TO BE THE NEXT GOVERNOR THAN. Because that is how most of we the people of Maine see the God LePage. I will say this once again he had better clean up his act, as he can not buck the system he is governing. The Feds will clear his clock, with his own words. That being said I want him to do his job. That job is to take care of the state of Maine and its citizens, therefore Big business needs to treat the workers better and stop firing them for NO GOOD REASON. If the employers loose their case it is because the truth comes out when one tells lies. Good day to you Bobbbbb Wright.

Catherine Pressey's picture

Open mouth insert foot, LePage

LePage intends to sign an executive order to establish a blue ribbon commission to investigate Maine’s unemployment compensation system, according to a news statement issued by his office Wednesday afternoon. LePage called that gathering that now has got him into this mess. LePage can now face, our Fed's how does he feel, this is how he feels, if they think they are going to get one up on him, they are fooling themselves. Now the blue ribbon commission, crap. More money going out the tubes, all because LePage is Pro. Business and not a natural person, and he is a bully for sure. Hope he is happy once again he has brought adversity to Maine.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Federal agents examine Maine unemployment files

Mainers 13.04.17 19:19 hst ?
Good ? 
" The U.S. Department of Labor, in confirming receipt of Webbert's complaint, noted that the Office of the Inspector General's Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations will review and evaluate the complaint and "make a determination as to the most appropriate course of action."
Federal usually trumps state except in egregious cases of states' rights ( like in MS , AL & GA - TX ) or today Supreme Court ruling on Nigeria . We do not rule NIgeria & Shell ( Dutch ) oil ®
What next ? DeCoster egg farms ?
hth ? /s Steve •
http://ipv6.dol.gov/owcp/energy/regs/compliance/law/maps/districtofficeC...

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