Mark Eves expands case against Gov. Paul LePage

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AUGUSTA — Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves expanded his federal lawsuit Wednesday that alleges Republican Gov. Paul LePage pressured a school for at-risk youth where Eves was president into firing him.

Eves’ lawsuit, filed last month, accused the governor of violating Eves’ First Amendment rights. He now argues the governor also violated Maine law.

The lawsuit alleges LePage threatened to withhold $500,000 from Good Will-Hinckley unless the school removed Eves from the president’s post. The loss of state funds would have cost Good Will-Hinckley, a nonprofit that operates a charter school, another $2 million in private dollars.

Eves’ lawyer alleged in a state claim sent to Maine Attorney General Janet Mills on Wednesday that LePage used intimidation to interfere with Eves’ employment in violation of state law. The state claim will be considered as part of the federal lawsuit.

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The House speaker’s lawsuit accuses LePage of acting out of “personal rage, vindictiveness and partisan malice” because Eves opposed the governor’s policies in the Legislature.

LePage has acknowledged that he threatened to withhold the money but says he was acting within his authority and that it would be inappropriate for Eves to lead the institution since he has opposed charter school legislation.

LePage’s spokeswoman Wednesday again characterized the complaint as a “political lawsuit” without legal merit. She said Eves and Democrats are trying to “accomplish in the courtroom what they couldn’t at the ballot box.”

Eves’ lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages.

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