LePage aides set to testify in Good Will-Hinckley case

Two of Gov. Paul LePage’s top aides will testify before the Legislature’s watchdog committee on Thursday as part of an investigation into the governor’s part in Good Will-Hinckley rescinding a job offer to House Speaker Mark Eves.

Cynthia Montgomery, LePage’s chief lawyer, and Aaron Chadbourne, an adviser, had little choice, given that the committee subpoenaed them last month after they didn’t testify voluntarily.

But Beth Ashcroft, director of the Legislature’s Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability, said the two have agreed to show up to the Government Oversight Committee’s meeting on Thursday. That was confirmed Thursday afternoon by LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett.

Eves, a North Berwick Democrat, got the job as the Fairfield organization’s president in June, but the offer was rescinded after LePage, a Republican, threatened to pull state funding from the group’s charter school if Eves was hired.

They won’t be the only high-profile guests at the hearing. Ashcroft said seven other people have agreed to testify, and they are:

  • Tom Desjardin, who was LePage’s acting education commissioner at the time of Eves’ firing and is now deputy commissioner.
  • Suzan Beaudoin, the education department’s director of school finance and operations.
  • Rich Abramson, Good Will-Hinckley’s former interim president.
  • Bill Brown, Eves’ chief budget adviser and the chairman of the board for the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, a Good Will-Hinckley charter school.
  • Verrill Dana lobbyists Sara Vanderwood and Jay Nutting, who have done work for Good Will-Hinckley.
  • and Gregory Powell, chairman of the Harold Alfond Foundation, which reportedly told the school that it would consider pulling private funding from Good Will-Hinckley if state funding dried up.

There are plenty of subplots here, and it’ll be must-watch stuff in the committee room next week. — Michael Shepherd

Group defends recording signature gatherers at polls

Project Dirigo, which caused a bit of a stir Tuesday when its members went to polling locations with video cameras and recorded signature gatherers, has defended its actions as a way to ensure “the integrity of the signature-gathering process” in a new release:

“Without video, one cannot document that the person signing as ‘Jane Doe of Biddeford’ is actually a 250-pound balding man addressed by his pals as ‘Bud.’ The placing of signatures on the petition, and statements by the gatherers (even outright lies) are absolutely protected under the First Amendment. That same amendment protects our right to observe and record those same activities in public places (NOT the voting areas), just the same as documenting a protest or arrest in Monument Square. As for ‘intimidation,’ there are only two things the already public gatherers and signers have to fear: 1) exposure of fraud or violation of election law, and 2) exposure of lies, intentional or even accidental misinformation.”

Despite the fact that recording the signature gatherers is not illegal, Project Dirigo said some of its members were asked to leave. The law could be in for some changes since Democratic Sen. Bill Diamond has submitted a bill concept that could outlaw recording signature gatherers, but bills like that, which deal directly with constitutional rights, face long odds and a steep uphill climb.

Project Dirigo’s news release didn’t identify any of its officers, its mission or its funding sources, if any. I’ve requested that information and will let y’all know when I receive it. — Christopher Cousins 

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So many roads closed, all at once

For a few minutes yesterday, I thought vehicular traffic in Maine would come to a standstill when the Maine Department of Transportation issued a slew of road closure notices, all within a minute of each other. Here’s what my email inbox looked like:

Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 7.33.06 AM

DOT spokesman Ted Talbot followed that slew of emails with one titled “Oops!” It described a server glitch as the cause of all the outdated notices but clarified that traffic on the Casco Bay Bridge will in fact be interrupted during the day for inspections starting on Sunday. You’ve been warned.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post said incorrectly that the Casco Bay Bridge will be closed for inspections. It will not.

Here’s today’s soundtrack about a deadly Maine road which according to the lyrics probably should actually be closed. Ted? — 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.