Governor’s office grants FOAA request, releases lawmaker’s letter lambasting Congdon’s statements

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LEWISTON — In a letter to Gov. Paul LePage, a state legislator reported racist comments allegedly made by a Cabinet member who abruptly resigned last week. 

The letter from state Rep. John Martin, D-Eagle Lake, was released Wednesday in response to a Sun Journal public information request.

LePage said last week the issue was a personnel matter that had been taken care of but refused to detail the contents of what led to the resignation. LePage said he would not release the letter that prompted the departure of Maine Department of Community and Economic Development Commissioner Philip Congdon.

“We had a personnel issue; we dealt with it. Let’s move on,” LePage said at the time.

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Using the state’s Freedom of Access Act, the Sun Journal requested a copy of the written communication. The governor’s office granted the request and released the letter.

Congdon stepped down after disparaging comments he made at public events and in private were shared with the governor’s office by Martin and other lawmakers from Aroostook County.

Martin’s one-page letter included three quotations attributed to Congdon.

“The following comments were reported to me,” Martin wrote in his letter dated April 25, 2011.

“The problem with higher education today dates back to the civil rights movement in the ’60s that allowed blacks to enter colleges. That resulted in the large amount of remedial education required in colleges.

“People in Aroostook County ought to get the hell off the reservation and create jobs for Aroostook County. You have not done a good job of educating your kids.

“We need more hydropower — wind is no good. You should be heating your homes with light bulbs.”

Martin also wrote about how Congdon said he had “‘no vision for his department,’ months into his tenure.”

Martin reminded LePage that Martin had backed three of LePage’s Cabinet picks and had spoken on behalf of one of them. Martin’s message did not detail which commissioners he supported.

“My voice has not yet joined those critical of your administration,” Martin wrote. “Again, I expect that you will immediately resolve this issue.”

LePage’s office announced the resignation of Congdon two days after receiving Martin’s letter on Wednesday, April 27.

Congdon later told a Sun Journal reporter that he was misquoted and that his comments had been taken out of context.

“Unfortunately, I thought I was talking to people who were sufficiently intelligent enough to understand my real meaning,” Congdon told the Sun Journal a day later. “I was mistaken.”

sthistle@sunjournal.com

John Martin letter regarding Philip Congdon

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