AUGUSTA — Republican Sen. Tom Saviello of Wilton has filed a formal request for an independent, nonpartisan investigation of Gov. Paul LePage’s interference in Good Will-Hinckley’s selection of Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves as its new president.

Saviello made the request in a letter delivered Monday to the Government Oversight Committee. In the letter, he asked the committee to direct the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability to “investigate whether this administration has crossed legal or ethical lines by leveraging state resources for political purposes.”

LePage threatened to withhold more than $500,000 annually in discretionary funding to the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, a charter school for at-risk youth operated by Good Will-Hinckley, if they did not reverse a decision made in May to hire Eves as the new president. LePage has said the school should never have hired Eves because of the North Berwick lawmaker’s long opposition to charter schools.

Last week, buckling to pressure from LePage, the school’s board fired the House Speaker. Eves, a licensed therapist who said he was attracted to Good Will-Hinckley because of the organization’s mission to help at-risk young people, called LePage’s tactics “blackmail.”

“Like you, I take my role as an elected official seriously and firmly believe that our responsibility is not simply to protect the well being of the state, but also to protect the sanctity of our democracy,” Saviello wrote. “For that reason, I am deeply troubled by the recent highly publicized reports suggesting the administration may have used state funding as a tool to target political opponents.”

Eves has obtained an attorney, David Webbert, who has said the Speaker would file a civil lawsuit against LePage in the coming weeks.


Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, is one of the two chairmen of the Government Oversight Committee. He said Monday that he expects the committee will see one more request for an investigation related to the Eves-LePage scandal.

The committee will meet sometime soon to consider the requests, Katz said, though no meeting date has been set yet.

The committee has subpoena power to conduct such investigations through OPEGA, the Legislature’s nonpartisan, independent watchdog group. OPEGA, with the committee’s approval, has subpoena power to conduct investigations. After fact-finding, the agency reports back to the committee, which makes recommendations based on OPEGA’s findings.

Previous OPEGA investigations have led to the filing of criminal charges against the director of the Maine Turnpike Authority, who in 2012 was found guilty of stealing more than $230,000 from the MTA.

“The goal is to do fact-finding, and get the facts out into the public, so that legislators and the public as a whole can draw their own conclusions from there,” Katz said.

Meanwhile, the Maine Republican Party was demanding answers from Eves, asking whether Eves had a conflict of interest as he negotiated a state budget that included funding for the school he was about to become president of.


But according to Eves spokeswoman, Jodi Quintero, Eves sought an opinion from the state’s Ethics Commission before voting on any bills that included funding for the school.

A letter in response to Eves from Jonathan Wayne, the executive director of the Ethics Commission  indicates the state funding for the school that was included in the current budget was at the recommendation of LePage.

The letter also indicates that the state funding for the school was spent exclusively on covering the costs of paying for housing costs for students who live at the school and did not cover any salaries at the school.

The letter goes on to note that the school first received state funding for its programs in 2009, Eve’s first year in the Legislature.

“Presumably no future employment at (Good Will-Hinckley) could be anticipated,” Wayne wrote. “The proposed funding for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 is the same as the three prior fiscal years. There is no evidence presented that you have used your position to advocate for the Governor’s (or the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee’s) inclusion of the continued funding in the budget.”

The letter also states that were there additional votes on the school coming in the remainder of Eves’ term in the Legislature – after he was hired by the school –  Eves should consider recusing himself, “. . . in order to avoid the appearance of any conflict of interest.”


Scott Thistle, the Sun Journal’s state politics editor, contributed to this report.

State Sen. Tom Saviello letter requesting OPEGA investigation

Advisory Letter to Mark Eves from Maine Ethics Commission

Evangelos-Chipman-Warren Letter seeking OPEGA investigation of Gov. LePage

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