Inquiry Planned into Maine Governor’s Threat to Yank Funding from Charter School

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July 1, 2015; Wall Street Journal

Four lawmakers in Maine have requested an investigation into Republican Maine Governor Paul LePage’s behavior with one of the state’s charter schools based on the school’s plan to hire a Democratic rival. NPQ previously covered this situation as it originally played out. And, as far as we can see the inquiry will move forward after a unanimous vote by the 12-member bipartisan joint oversight committee approved the request.

The Governor is reported to have threatened to pull more than half a million in funding from the Good Will-Hinckley school based on the fact that it had offered the organization’s presidency to Maine House Speaker Mark Eves. LePage claimed that the hire was based on cronyism.  Eves, a therapist with experience in behavioral health, is accusing the governor of blackmail and is planning to file a civil suit. Meanwhile the school is paying Eves $30,000 for having backed out of its contract with him and it is under fire for allowing itself to be bullied.

Central Maine.Com reports that alumni and parents feel that the Good Will-Hinckley board’s decision to withdraw a job offer to Mark Eves is a bad example for students indicating that bullying is acceptable  and that money trumps values.

Jack Moore, Chair of the board has responded said in a telephone interview Monday that he just wanted to let the whole situation and that the board made the decision that was in the best interest of the students. “As fiduciaries faced with the loss of state and significant private funding, the very real financial consequences for the school made the board’s unanimous decision on June 24 black and white,” said Moore. Contrast this to the stand-up behavior of the Girl Scout Council we discussed yesterday.

On Monday LePage acknowledged to reporters that he threatened to pull funding because he didn’t believe Mr. Eves was right for the job although how that call entered the realm of the governorship is anyone’s guess.

LePage’s stance is that the probe is illegitimate. “The Governor and the exercise of his discretionary executive power are simply not subject to OPEGA’s jurisdiction and/or oversight,”  Cynthia Montgomery, the governor’s chief legal counsel, wrote in a letter to the office’s director on Tuesday.

Meanwhile Chris Christie got into the act today while he was in Portland receiving the Governor’s endorsement, publicly supporting the position taken by LePage.

“Controversies come and go. Leadership is what stands strong and firm. And that’s what this governor has stood for his entire time in office,” Governor Christie said. Whatever that means. This situation clearly needs the legislative accountability attention though the facts appear to be relatively clear.—Ruth McCambridge