Maine’s House Speaker Mark Eves has accused Governor Paul LePage of blackmail after he lost a job offer when threats to his future employer were made by the administration. Eves, who is employed in the private sector as a family therapist, was offered the position of President of the Good Will-Hinckley School, a partially state funded institution for at-risk youths. As of today, the position is no longer his for the accepting.
Good Will-Hinckley’s chairman, Jack Moore, explained the board’s decision to The Portland Press Herald:
“The basis for this decision is grounded in the institution’s desire not to be involved in political controversy that will divert attention away from our core mission of serving children and has the potential to jeopardize the future of our school. Good Will-Hinckley has a very dedicated staff. The board’s first priority is to act in the best interest of students and educators alike and the board’s actions reflect its unwavering commitment to them.”
The “potential to jeopardize the future of our school” refers to LePage’s threat to withhold $500,000 of state funding from Good Will-Hinckley if they moved forward with Eves’ hiring. It is a sizable chunk for a school with an annual budget of $4.5 million a year.
“The governor knows that these financial losses would put the school out of business, but he has refused to back down. This is an abuse of power that jeopardizes Maine children. The governor’s actions represent the worst kind of vendetta politics Maine has ever seen. If it goes unchecked, no legislator will feel safe in voting his conscience for fear that the governor will go after the legislator’s family and livelihood.”
Thursday, LePage countered with a statement of his own, standing by his threat and bashing Eves for his opposition to charter schools:
“Speaker Eves has been an ardent foe of charter schools for his entire political career, then he turns around and gets hired to run a charter school—whose board is chaired by Eves’ own State House employee—for a cushy job worth about $150,000 in total compensation. To provide half-a-million dollars in taxpayer funding to a charter school that would be headed by Maine’s most vehement anti-charter-school politician is not only the height of hypocrisy, it is absolutely unacceptable.”
LePage’s move spurred condemnation from members of his own party. State Senate President Michael Thibodeau (R-Waldo) released a statement, saying:
“I am very saddened by this situation and shocked by what is being alleged. Nearly all legislators depend on a career outside of the State House to provide for their families. For that reason, I am deeply concerned about what has happened to Mark Eves and his family. I am still trying to learn exactly what transpired. Above all, we must ensure that the people of Maine can continue to have faith in their public institutions,”
Republican Senator Roger Katz also panned LePage, saying his actions went “beyond political.” In an email to The Press-Herald Katz he wrote:
There is no question Mark is qualified to lead the school. This is personal, angry and vindictive. I sometimes don’t agree with (Eves), but he is a fine and honest man. More importantly, he is a husband and the father of three beautiful young kids who is trying to support his family. Political battles are one thing. Trying to ruin someone is quite another. This is unprecedented. Where does it all end?”
Eves is considering a lawsuit. He told WCSH 6 News:
“He was very explicit in the fact that he was withholding this half million dollars to put at risk two more million dollars in private investment, that the school would have defaulted if the governor did withhold that money. The board made their decision. This type of political vendetta is really out of control. I think the general population and public here in Maine understands that politics is politics, but people’s personal lives, you don’t mess with.”