LePage’s legal ground in spat with sheriffs may not keep him out of court

Good morning from Augusta. Gov. Paul LePage said on Thursday that he doesn’t want to fire two sheriffs whom he is threatening to oust for not honoring immigration officials’ requests to hold inmates past their release dates without a warrant.

But LePage told reporters if they flout him, he will. He said in Falmouth he’ll “let the courts decide” if he can fire sheriffs in that case. The sheriffs are in a tough spot between LePage’s demand to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the possibility of false imprisonment lawsuits. But LePage offered his office’s help with the issue and said he didn’t want to have to fire Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce and York County Sheriff William King — the sheriffs who prompted his Tuesday order.

LePage’s office has already laid out a legal argument for firing sheriffs. The Maine Constitution provides a process for governors to remove elected sheriffs after a complaint and hearing. State law allows county commissioners to file that complaint triggering the process, but the Constitution doesn’t specify who the complaint must come from. LePage’s office released a statement earlier this week calling that “only one method” of starting the process.

This would probably be tested in court if LePage moves on sheriffs. Dmitry Bam, a professor at the University of Maine School of Law, said earlier this week that the governor seems to have wide power under the law, but there is a constitutional need for due process — meaning that evidence can be presented with a neutral arbiter presiding. But the law doesn’t lay out what the process would look like. Research from the Law and Legislative Library suggests that a governor hasn’t removed a sheriff at least since Maine disbanded its Executive Council — which shared power with the governor — in 1975. The constitutional issues that sheriffs have cited could also complicate things.

So, we’re in (almost) uncharted territory here. But we’ll have more on Maine’s strange history of sheriff removals this weekend. Here’s your soundtrack.


Reading list

  • Lawmakers are worried that LePage will undercut their omnibus marijuana regulatory bill. The Legislature’s marijuana committee voted Thursday to send a bill regulating the state’s voter-approved recreational marijuana market, but Maine Public reported that lawmakers are worried that the governor or his legislative allies will block it. The LePage administration hasn’t participated in the committee process for nine months and it’s unknown where the governor stands on key pieces of the proposal.
  • Bath Iron Works will build two new destroyers and President Donald Trump’s Navy chief is coming to town. Maine’s congressional delegation on Thursday cheered the deal with the U.S. Navy for two new Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and BIW’s president told the Associated Press it’ll “help to stabilize our business.” Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer is making his first visit to the shipyard today since he took his position.
  • There was a gubernatorial debate Thursday in Augusta with six of the eight Democratic candidates. According to the Kennebec Journal, three of the candidates — Mark Eves, Betsy Sweet and Diane Russell — said they support a single-payer health care system and two of them — Eves and Jim Boyle — said they would funnel Medicaid dollars toward fighting the opioid epidemic.
  • A severe nursing shortage will hit Maine over the next 10 years. The Maine Nursing Action Coalition released a new study Thursday that found that Maine could be short 3,200 nurses by 2025 and rural areas could be hit the hardest. Nearly half of all the nurses in Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Knox, Waldo and Hancock counties are older than 55 and poised to retire.

Thomas the Tank Totalitarian

I love trains, so I was an avid viewer of the “Thomas the Tank Engine” series on PBS. The miniature versions of Ringo Starr, then George Carlin, as the conductor delighted me as much as the colorful trains with their Old Blighty accents amused my kids.

It all seemed like such quasi-trippy, good clean fun.

Imagine my dismay to learn that Shining Time Station was actually a breeding ground for the kind of whip-cracking, punishment-loving authoritarian rule people are fighting about in the streets now — at least according to interpretations spelled out in a Jia Tolentino column in The New Yorker.

Who knew that “The Sad Story of Henry” was really an early call to wall off undesirables? Or that the chirpy sound effects gave tune to a locomotive privilege system in which “troublesome trucks” are essentially drawn and quartered, a “spiteful” brake is crushed to bits and “female passenger coaches named Annie and Clarabel …are awarded to Thomas as prizes?“

“On Sodor, the steam trains engage in constant competition for big jobs, more work, and the Fat Controller’s approval,” Tolentino writes.

It all seems so precient. And terrifying. “1984” on tracks with accents. I’m taking the first train headed in the opposite direction. Here’s my soundtrack. — Robert Long

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Christopher Cousins and Michael Shepherd and edited by Robert Long. If you’re reading it on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, click here to get Maine’s only newsletter on state politics via email on weekday mornings.

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.