LePage floats acting education commissioner for permanent post

Gov. Paul LePage’s office said Tuesday that he has notified a state board that he intends to nominate Acting Education Commissioner Robert Hasson for that permanent position.

That starts a process that could give Maine its first commissioner since 2014, when longtime education official Jim Rier left the post. Since then, the governor has shifted acting commissioners in and outside the role.

Those moves avoided the legislative confirmation process and drew ire from Maine superintendents, but the nomination of Hasson, a former teacher, principal and superintendent, is unlikely to be controversial.

Hasson took the acting commissioner post in November in a procedural move that allowed Deputy Commissioner William Beardsley to remain in charge of the department. But Beardsley resigned from the department in December.

It was the last of several procedural moves that exploited a loophole in Maine law allowing acting commissioners to have all the powers of commissioners confirmed by the Maine Senate but only lets them serve for six months without being re-appointed.

But on Tuesday, LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said the governor told the Maine Board of Education that he intends to nominate Hasson for the position.

Under state law, the board must interview and assess him before LePage posts the nomination. After that, it will go to the Legislature’s Education Committee. Hasson must be confirmed by the Maine Senate.

Beardsley was LePage’s last nominee, but the governor pulled him from consideration last year after Democrats aired concerns about his relationship with the Rev. Robert Carlson, who died by suicide in 2012 amid a police investigation into allegations that Carlson sexually abused boys and past comments about transgender students.

But the news of the governor’s intent to nominate Hasson was welcomed by Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-South Portland, an education committee member who said it was “good news” that the department will likely see steady leadership through the end of LePage’s term in early 2019.

“Bob has a long history of serving public education and that’s always very welcome from my point of view,” Millett said.

Michael Shepherd

About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.