AUGUSTA — The executive order issued by Gov. Paul LePage on April 20 to start an investigation into the Maine Human Rights Commission, but wasn’t released publicly until Tuesday, was withheld in apparent violation of Maine public records law.

According to Maine Revised Statutes, all executive orders must be filed with the Legislative Council and the Law and Legislative Reference Library when they are issued. In addition, the orders must be posted on the state’s website within one week of the issuance date.

Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, a Democrat, said Wednesday that he never saw the executive order. His office is responsible for filing and archiving all official documents from the legislative and executive branches.

“Those are not common documents, and it is an arguable point whether such a document has any force when it is never made public,” said Dunlap. “At the very least this is gross negligence; it’s incompetence at the base level. If it was done intentionally, it borders on malfeasance. The duty of public officials is to make their work public. This is about doing the people’s business.”

A spokeswoman for LePage said Wednesday those steps have now been taken and that failure to post the orders online was an oversight on her part.

Adrienne Bennett also said the governor ordered the probe, which more than five months after being ordered has still not begun, to ensure the Maine Human Rights Commission’s process is “fair for all parties.”


She also denied allegations that an investigative review the governor ordered of the Maine Human Rights Commission in April is political retaliation.

“The governor’s intention when he created this group was and continues to be an effort to safeguard the process,” said Bennett in response to questions from the Bangor Daily News. “We have a diverse panel and even took the direction from [the commission] on appointing members. For her to claim this as retaliation is unfortunate and baseless.”

Commission Director Amy Sneirson said Tuesday that her organization learned in August that LePage had ordered the creation of the review panel in April, about three weeks after the commission rejected a request by LePage to reopen a religious discrimination case that went against Moody’s Diner in Waldoboro.

“I can’t help but notice that this executive order was signed around the same time that we refused to do what he wanted in a case,” Sneirson has said. “I can’t help but see the relationship between those things.”

LePage responded by refusing to sign a financial order for the commission to move $4,000 from one of its accounts to another, money that was needed to cover a temporary staffing shortage.

That order still has not been issued. Bennett said other than that financial order, LePage “does not intend to intervene with the process or any of the casework conducted by the MHRC.


“The creation of the group is only to address the process, not the outcome of cases,” she said.

Bennett said the group has some members, but the full panel is still being formed. She declined to name the panelists but said that information would be released this week and the panel will likely hold its first meeting this month.

She said the original Nov. 1 deadline set by LePage’s executive order would be extended.

“They will have adequate time to do their work,” said Bennett.

Sneirson said she welcomes the review because it will highlight the work accomplished by the commission, which in fiscal year 2015 heard more than 750 individual complaints.

“We feel as an agency that we have nothing to hide so we’re not afraid of this sort of review,” she said. “If anything comes out of it, it will be a conclusion that we need more resources.”

Executive Order

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