AUGUSTA — A status report about an investigation into whether Gov. Paul LePage acted illegally or unethically by threatening to withhold taxpayer funding from Good Will-Hinckley unless it fired Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves will wait until September.

Beth Ashcroft, director of the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability, told the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee on Friday morning that the early stages of her probe are going well.

“We’ve started the review and so far we’ve had very good response and cooperation from those we’ve reached out to,” said Ashcroft. “I have no indication that we’ll have anything other than that during this review.”

On July 1, the committee voted unanimously to open the investigation. Ashcroft said at the time that her probe would focus on the money — LePage threatened to withhold more than $500,000 a year from a Department of Education account that he has discretion over — and how withholding affected or would have affected the school.

“We are not going to be drawing any conclusions about whether the governor exercised his authority appropriately or not,” said Ashcroft earlier this month. “That would be for others to decide.”

Calls for an investigation began in June after the Bangor Daily News first reported LePage threatened to withhold $530,000 a year in state support for Good Will-Hinckley, which runs the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, if the school followed through with hiring the North Berwick lawmaker. Good Will-Hinckley’s $120,000-per-year job offer to Eves was rescinded, and Eves is considering filing a civil suit against LePage.

LePage objected to Eves’ hiring, arguing that the Democrat who works as a family therapist is not qualified for the position. He also criticized Good Will-Hinckley’s decision to hire Eves, who opposed LePage’s efforts to create charter schools in Maine, to run an organization that operates one of Maine’s first public charter schools.

Ashcroft said she will be tight-lipped until the investigation is complete.

“I am shooting for a September release to you of the results of that review,” she said. “Until then, we will not be sharing with you any of the details of what we may be doing or finding.”


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