AUGUSTA — A top attorney for Republican Gov. Paul LePage is resisting efforts by several state lawmakers to have the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee launch an investigation into LePage’s actions regarding House Speaker Mark Eves and a position he had been hired for then fired from at the Good Will-Hinckley School.

The committee, evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, is set to meet this afternoon to begin discussions over whether it should order its nonpartisan investigative arm, the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability, to start research on LePage’s actions.

LePage’s staff attorney, Cynthia Montgomery, argues in a letter to OPEGA’s executive director, Beth Ashcroft, that LePage’s office is not within the OPEGA’s jurisdiction.

The agency has as recently as 2014 investigated and issued findings on departments within LePage’s administration, including one involving a public document shredding scandal at the Maine Center for Disease Control.

Citing the state’s constitution, Montgomery writes, “the chief executive is a governing authority separate but equal to the Legislature itself.”

A group of four lawmakers — including two independents, a Republican and a Democrat — have called on Government Oversight Committee to investigate whether LePage made an improper threat to withhold state funding from the school if it hired Eves as its president.

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Eves has called the move, “blackmail,” and has threatened civil legal action against LePage but has remained neutral in the call for an investigation of LePage by the Legislature.

The school, citing a handwritten memo from LePage, that articulated the threat to withhold about $0.5 million in state funding over the next two years decided to dismiss Eves and pay him a severance of $30,000 as required under his contract, even though he had yet to start his new job.

LePage has said acknowledged his communications with the school but has also said he was acting in the taxpayers’ interest in trying to protect the school from putting Eves on the payroll, who LePage claims is unqualified for the job.

On Wednesday, state Rep. Ben Chipman, a Portland independent, and one of the four lawmakers calling for an investigation and possible impeachment and trial for LePage in the Legislature, said Oversight Committee was the first step.

“We need to get to the bottom of what happened and hold Gov. LePage accountable for his actions,” Chipman said in a prepared statement.

Chipman, along with independent Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos of Friendship, Rep. Charlotte Warren, D-Hallowell, as well as Sen. Tom Saviello, R-Wilton, have submitted requests asking the committee investigate LePage.

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The committee is set to meet at 3 p.m.

The story will be updated.

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Cynthia Montgomery letter to Beth Ashcroft


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