The Government Oversight Committee voted today to accept OPEGA’s report on its inquiry into Gov. Paul LePage’s actions regarding Good Will-Hinckley’s state funding.

The report detailed how Gov. LePage threatened to withhold $530,000 in annual funding designated by the Legislature for Good Will-Hinckley after he learned of its decision to hire House Speaker Mark Eves as its president, a decision he opposed; how top LePage administration officials withheld a regularly scheduled payment to Good Will-Hinckley; and how that payment was released only after the nonprofit had fired Speaker Eves, as LePage wanted.

Democratic leaders are lauding the bipartisan GOC for its work on the LePage/Good Will-Hinckley scandal, and pledge to explore legislative action to ensure similar abuses of power can never happen again.

“Mainers demanded answers and now we have them,” said Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond. ”What the governor did — using his check-signing authority to strongarm an organization that helps at-risk kids — was wrong.  Gov. LePage may think he’s entitled to rule over Good Will-Hinckley and his political opponents, but he isn’t. It’s clear that we have to do everything in our power to prevent this governor or any future one from abusing their power to punish people they disagree with.”

“The Legislature has serious work to tackle – a deadly opioid epidemic, workforce training needs and a 21st century energy policy to name just a few of our pressing priorities. Each and every citizen-lawmaker in Maine must be able to vote their conscience without feeling the threat of retribution by the governor hanging over their heads,” said House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan. “As a Legislature, we must do whatever is needed to ensure that no governor will ever dare to contemplate such actions again. We have a number of avenues available to us as possible remedies to crack down on the abuse of office by public officials.”

Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Dawn Hill of York, a former chairwoman of the GOC, commended the committee for its even keeled investigation, despite many opportunities for it to become sidetracked.

“This committee lived up to its responsibility as an impartial, bipartisan fact-finder,” Sen. Hill said. “It wasn’t always easy, given the high profile of the people involved in the case, the immense public interest, and the governor’s effort to politicize the investigation. But the members of the committee and the nonpartisan OPEGA staff rooted out the truth for all to see.”

“We are in Augusta to do the people’s work. An important part of that is making sure that elected officials honor their oath of office and are held accountable when they abuse the trust voters put in them,” said Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon, D-Freeport. “The Government Oversight Committee’s invaluable work on the LePage/Good Will-Hinckley scandal will help the Legislature combat such gross abuses of power. It’s our responsibility as a Legislature to protect the integrity of our government.”

 

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