AUGUSTA — Members of the Legislature’s watchdog Government Oversight Committee will convene Wednesday to discuss allegations that Gov. Paul LePage improperly or illegally interfered with Good Will-Hinckley’s hiring of Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves as the organization’s president.

As first reported by the BDN last week, LePage threatened with withhold more than $500,000 per year in state funding for the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, which is a charter school operated by Good Will-Hinckley, unless the school rescinded its offer to Eves, which it did last week. Eves was to start his new job July 1.

There have been two calls for the Government Oversight Committee to launch an investigation through its non-partisan agency, the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability. The committee was originally not planning to convene until next week.

“Serious questions have been raised about the appropriateness and legality of the governor’s action in this matter,” said Republican Sen. Roger Katz of Augusta, who chairs the Government Oversight Committee. “Many voices are calling for some kind of legislative review to get all the facts into the open. We need a rational, bi-partisan venue where the facts can be explored.”

Rep. Chuck Kruger, D-Thomaston, the committee’s co-chairman, joined Katz’s call to convene on Wednesday.

“I am deeply concerned about the accusations around the abuse of power and a pattern of the chief executive trying to subvert the will of the Legislature,” said Kruger. “We need to ensure that each and every member of the Legislature feels free to vote their conscience without fear of retribution.”

UPDATED 1:15 p.m.: Maine’s Government Oversight Committee will soon decide whether the state will launch an investigation into Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s interference in a school’s personnel affairs.

The committee will meet Wednesday to discuss Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves’ allegation that LePage pressured Good Will-Hinckley into removing him as president by threatening to withhold more than $500,000 a year in state funds.

LePage acknowledged on Monday that he threatened to withhold the funds, but says it wasn’t an abuse of power. He says Eves isn’t qualified for the job because he long opposed charter schools in the Legislature.

Two requests for an investigation into the issue were filed by lawmakers Monday.

More than 100 people rallied outside the Statehouse Tuesday to urge lawmakers to look into the governor’s actions and start the impeachment process if it’s discovered that he broke any laws. They held signs that read “impeach the bully” and “unfit to govern.”

— The Associated Press


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