AUGUSTA — A lawyer for the Maine People's Voting Coalition says that Gov. Paul LePage is not authorized to remove the 36-foot mural at the Department of Labor.
The group issued a release Friday saying a petition could be filed with the State Museum Commission to stop LePage from moving the mural.
The administration plans to move the mural because LePage believes its depiction of Maine's labor history is too one-sided toward organized labor.
According to the coalition's Jon Beal, a Portland lawyer, the governor doesn't have the authority to remove the mural without approval from the Museum Commission, the artwork's current owner.
Beal cited a section of state law: "The Maine State Museum holds title, as trustee for the state, to all historical materials, other than documents or other library or archival items under the administrative jurisdiction of the Maine State Library or the Maine State Archives, that are or may become the property of the state and are or may be housed in the public buildings of the state."
The law says historical materials "include the banners and flags presently housed in the State House Hall of Flags and may include, but are not restricted to, paintings, sculptures and other works of art dealing with historic subjects."
"I think it is not the governor’s job to decide where the mural is displayed, or whether it should be removed," Beal said in a news release.
Beal advised the mural's artist, Judy Taylor, or another group to petition the Museum Commission. He said another suit could be filed to restrain LePage from removing the mural without going through the Museum Commission.
The LePage administration did not immediately return a request for comment. However, Museum Director Joseph R. Phillips said Maine State Museum law assigns museum responsibility for historical materials housed in state-owned buildings, not contemporary art.
"The Maine State Museum has never had responsibility for contemporary art in these buildings," Phillips said in a written statement. "The Maine State Museum does not collect contemporary art. There are excellent art museums in Maine that do this work."