Questioning of witnesses about LePage’s role in Good Will-Hinckley firing kicks off today

Good morning.

Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s role in forcing Good Will-Hinckley to rescind an employment contract with Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves will be at center stage today when the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee begins interviewing witnesses in the case.

The Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability, a nonpartisan investigative agency that operates at the will of the committee, already conducted a weeks-long investigation of the matter.  

That probe concluded that the governor  — or more specifically members of his Cabinet and staff — threatened to withhold more than $500,000 in state funding if the organization, which among other things runs a public charter school, followed through with hiring Eves. The focus now moves the issue from the development of that report to the bipartisan committee, which is expected to interview a range of witnesses today and perhaps during future meetings.

LePage will not testify and neither will two of his staff members who have been asked by the committee to be present today. They include Cynthia Montgomery, his chief legal counsel, and Aaron Chadbourne, a policy adviser to LePage’s who is alleged to have been a liaison between the governor’s office and the Good Will-Hinckley board of directors. Montgomery and Chadbourne have said they will sit out of the probe because of a federal civil lawsuit by Eves that is pending against LePage.

The real question is whether the committee will opt to use its subpoena power in an attempt to force Montgomery, Chadbourne and others to testify.

So where is it all leading? That’s unclear, though if LePage is to be sanctioned in any way, that would most likely be an action taken by the full Legislature. LePage has said repeatedly that he did nothing wrong — even though he has acknowledged publicly that he did take steps to force the organization to fire Eves — and that the investigation will vindicate him.

Still, he is taking the allegations seriously and through the state’s insurance company is authorized to spend up to $400,000 in his own defense. He has said he will proceed with a private attorney, Patrick Strawbridge of the Boston firm Consovoy McCarthy Park. Proceedings in the civil suit remain weeks or months away. — Christopher Cousins

Dozens of new bills take effect today

Bills enacted earlier this year by the Legislation which didn’t have an emergency clause attached were scheduled to take effect 90 days after the adjournment of the Legislature. That moment is midnight tonight.

There is one new law that has received a lot of attention — a bill that allows Mainers to carry concealed handguns without permits — but there are many others. BDN business editor Darren Fishell provided this interesting explainer about bills that affect businesses and commerce but there are a total of 377 new laws, many of which take effect today.

For your reading pleasure, you can read through the entire list by clicking here. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list

The number of Halloween events in Maine is scary

As I’m sure you know, there’s more to Halloween than trick or treating. For example, this weekend (if you, um, live that long) you can enclose yourself in a coffin and race it during a special event in Bucksport. There will also be a pumpkin trebuchet, which frankly I could watch all day.

For your convenience, the BDN’s Shelby Hartin has laid out many of the special Halloween events happening across Maine over the next couple of weeks.

Do you think you’re immune to being “scared”? That’s what I thought as an invincible teenager on a haunted hayride in the town of Poland. I just haven’t been the same since those zombies jumped aboard with REAL, RUNNING CHAINSAWS. Though their cutting chains were taken out I didn’t know that at first and I’ve been much more wary of “Halloween fun” ever since. — Christopher Cousins  

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.