AUGUSTA — Approximately $600 million earmarked for Maine infrastructure projects is held up in an arcane dispute between Gov. Paul LePage and State Treasurer Terry Hayes over a contract with lawyers hired to work on a bond sale set for June.

The latest spat involving the Republican governor and state bonding has been simmering since March in Augusta’s bureaucracy, but the consequences could be dire for Maine’s construction industry, which a key official said is “wild” about a potential delay that risks 4,500 jobs in the state.

Nearly two months ago, Hayes, an independent, awarded a contract to Locke Lord, an international law firm with a Boston office, to represent the state in its normal June bond sale, which could include $100 million approved by Maine voters in 2016 for transportation projects that would trigger $500 million in federal, local and other matching funds.

But the LePage administration has flagged several perceived problems with the request for proposals. In a Wednesday letter to Hayes, LePage said the agreement with Locke Lord wasn’t approved by an executive branch panel that reviews contracts because it “appears designed to preclude” Maine firms from bidding and that a new, modified request for proposals would get “a better value contract.”

On Friday, Hayes ruled out crafting another request for proposals, saying while she signed a letter saying the contract required panel approval, it doesn’t appear that it was needed and that Maine firms weren’t barred implicitly or explicitly from bidding.

However, she said that there is “no dispute” on bonding from her perspective and that she’s waiting on LePage to give her a figure for the bonds that he wants sold this year, saying “if somebody wants to do the treasurer’s job, they can run for treasurer.”


“Until somebody else is elected treasurer, this is my job,” she said. “I feel like I’ve done it and I’m ready to continue doing it.”

Locke Lord won the contract over just one other firm — Maine law and lobbying giant Preti Flaherty. In a letter after the award, Hayes told Preti that it “may have violated” rules restricting communication on bids to one point of contact in the treasurer’s office. James Pitney, a Preti lawyer, didn’t immediately respond to messages on Friday.

LePage spokesman Peter Steele said “we don’t know who the treasurer is talking about in her warning to Preti,” but that “several Maine firms reached out” to LePage “expressing dismay” that they couldn’t bid.

Maine Transportation Commissioner David Bernhardt broke news of the dispute at a Maine Better Transportation Association event in Freeport on Thursday, sending shockwaves through the state’s construction industry.

Many construction firms have already geared up for Maine’s short season and bid openings have been delayed as a result of the dispute over the past month. Matt Marks, the CEO of the Associated General Contractors of Maine, said some held-up work was set to start next week.

Marks said his members are “through the roof wild” about the delay and some are considering not bringing workers back from seasonal layoffs or shutting down for weeks, saying the state needs to “move beyond this quickly” and “somebody’s got to be at will to move.”

“It just really creates this huge uncertainty and a lack of predictability,” said Maria Fuentes, the MBTA’s executive director. “It’s not the way, I think, to do business.”

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