A group of Maine legislators plans to launch an effort to impeach Gov. Paul LePage, it announced Thursday.
The lawmakers are accusing the Republican governor of blackmailing Good Will-Hinckley, a private organization that runs the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, into rescinding an offer of employment to Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves, the Bangor Daily News reports.
"You don't talk about impeachment or think about impeachment unless a crime has taken place. In this case, we believe a crime has taken place," independent Rep. Benjamin Chipman, one of the six representatives who met to discuss impeachment proceedings, told local news station WCSH6.
The organization's board offered Eves the president position a few weeks ago, and he was scheduled to take over July 1, but Good Will-Hinckley announced this Wednesday that it had withdrawn its offer, according to the Portland Press Herald.
Eves claims the board did so only because LePage threatened to withhold $530,000 in state funding from the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, a charter school for at-risk youth, if Eves were president. The Harold Alfond Foundation, a private charity, had previously committed to providing the organization with $4 million in grants, but wrote to school officials last week expressing concern about the “likely” loss of state funding. The foundation worried that without state funding, the school would not be able to meet various goals required for it to obtain the grants.
LePage has vocally expressed his opposition to the hire, citing Eves' anti-charter-school voting record as a reason he is unfit for the job. In a Thursday statement he doubled down on his position, calling the hiring a “back-room deal between cronies.” He went on to say:
I will not stand for it and neither will the Maine people. Speaker Eves has been an ardent foe of charter schools for his entire political career, then he turns around and gets hired to run a charter school -- whose board is chaired by Eves’ own State House employee -- for a cushy job worth about $150,000 in total compensation. To provide half-a-million dollars in taxpayer funding to a charter school that would be headed by Maine’s most vehement anti-charter-school politician is not only the height of hypocrisy, it is absolutely unacceptable.
The statement did not mention the allegations of blackmail, and press contacts for the LePage administration did not return a request for comment from The Huffington Post.
Eves, who has previously worked as a family counselor, said he accepted the position despite his past opposition to charter schools because he wishes to help at-risk children.
Good Will-Hinckley Chairman Jack Moore said in a statement that the board opted to rescind its offer based on its “desire not to be involved in political controversy that will divert attention away from our core mission of serving children and has the potential to jeopardize the future of our school.”
Legislators who wish to begin impeachment proceedings believe LePage has overstepped his boundaries as governor.
“Gov. Lepage has violated his authority by intimidating a private entity with the end objective of violating Speaker Eves’ civil rights, his ability to seek outside employment and provide for his family,” independent Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos told the Bangor Daily News.
“Nearly all legislators” depend on outside employment to support themselves and their families, state Senate President Michael Thibodeau told WCSH6.
"The governor's actions represent the worst kind of vendetta politics Maine has ever seen," Eves said, according to The Associated Press. "If it goes unchecked, no legislator will feel safe in voting his conscience for fear that the governor will go after the legislator's family and livelihood."
This would be the first time a governor of Maine was impeached, but LePage is surely used to controversy. He’s vowed to veto every Democrat-sponsored bill until the state’s income tax is repealed, proposed to ban food stamps for ex-convicts, and opposed increasing access to lifesaving anti-overdose medication.
Once dubbed “America’s craziest governor,” LePage has also made national headlines for joking about shooting a newspaper cartoonist, saying the NAACP can “kiss my butt,” and claiming that the worst thing the chemical additive BPA could do is “give women little beards.”
Correction: This post has been updated to reflect that Eves was hired to run Good Will-Hinckley, not only the charter school.