Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) is caught up in a doozy of a controversy. As regular readers know, a Maine charter school recently hired state House Speaker Mark Eves (D), but LePage, a fierce opponent of Democratic legislators, threatened the school – either fire Eves or the governor would cut off the school’s state funding. In effect, LePage played the role of a mobster saying, “It’s a nice school you have there; it’d be a shame if something happened to it.”
The school, left with no options, reluctantly acquiesced. The problem, of course, is that governors are not supposed to use state resources to punish people they don’t like. By most measures, it’s an impeachable offense.
As of today, as the Portland Press Herald reported, it’s also the basis for a civil suit.
Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves will file a civil lawsuit Thursday against Gov. Paul LePage, alleging that the governor used taxpayer money and the power of his office to prevent his hiring at a private school in Fairfield.The lawsuit, to be filed in U.S. District Court in Portland, has been anticipated ever since the board of directors at Good Will-Hinckley voted to rescind its offer to pay Eves $150,000 a year to become the organization’s next president. Eves said that the board told him before his contract was terminated that LePage threatened to eliminate $530,000 in annual state funding for the school unless it removed him from the job.
“Acting out of personal rage, vindictiveness and partisan malice, Gov. Paul LePage blackmailed a private school that serves at-risk children into firing its president, the Speaker of Maine’s House of Representatives,” the complaint reads.
The discovery phase of this case ought to be a doozy.
Remember, the Tea Party governor hasn’t actually denied the allegations, and neither have LePage’s allies. The Maine Republican did argue this morning, however, that when he threatened the school it was comparable to LePage intervening in a domestic-violence dispute.
“It’s just like one time when I stepped in … when a man was beating his wife,” the governor said. “Should have I stepped in? Legally, No. But I did. And I’m not embarrassed about doing it.”
I honestly haven’t the foggiest idea what that’s supposed to mean in this context. Unless the state House Speaker intended to physically assault the charter school, the comparison appears to be gibberish.
And just in case this wasn’t quite enough of a mess for the beleaguered governor, LePage is simultaneously facing a parallel controversy in which he claims to have vetoed bills that have already become state law.
This morning, the GOP governor said he’s “not going to enforce” the state laws he doesn’t believe exist, even if the state legislature and state Attorney General’s office believes those state laws do exist. The Maine Supreme Court hears arguments in the veto issue tomorrow.
Politico recently characterized LePage as “America’s Craziest Governor,” asking whether the Republican is still “playing with a full deck.”