Maine AG to file access law violation complaint against LePage

Good morning from the BDN’s one-day-only western Maine bureau, where I’ve reunited with my kids at their nana’s house and where my dog has his tail between his legs with troubled thoughts of going to the groomer later and being separated from most of his fur.

Here’s his soundtrack, though my golden retriever is that dog times about 10.

The western foothills, which is where I was raised, are a vast departure from the salty sea smell of Boothbay Harbor, where Gov. Paul LePage held his latest town hall meeting on Wednesday for about 30 locals. It was one of the smallest crowds LePage has seen during the weekly meetings. As you’ve been reminded in the Daily Brief — not that any Mainer needs a reminder of this — July is the month when most people have something better to do than sit on a folding metal chair in a steamy gymnasium.

LePage’s address was typical in many ways, though he did announce a bit of news: That Attorney General Janet Mills is taking action against his administration for an illegal meeting of the governor’s blue ribbon education commission, which was held at the Blaine House in April. Despite the fact the commission was created in an act of the Legislature and that an agenda was published prior to the meeting, the public was not let in.

“This morning the attorney general filed suit against [Education Commissioner] Bill Beardsley and the Department of Education because of the first meeting of the task force,” said LePage. “It was a private meeting just to get to know each other and they’re going to sue us.”

That broke the news on the suit, which was confirmed on Thursday by Tim Feeley, a spokesman for Mills. He said the office will be filing a complaint for the access law violation, which will detail the facts of the case and be “self-explanatory.”

She has said that the meeting was illegal and Democratic lawmakers on the panel have vowed not to attend any more meetings that aren’t public. LePage reacted by saying he was pulling Beardsley and his administration out of the task force, a decision which Beardsley later reversed, though the second meeting of the task force has yet to be held.

In late April, Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves called on Mills to sanction the administration for holding the meeting. Under Maine’s open meetings law, the penalty is a $500 fine.

“The attorney general is going to have to give the Department of Education money to hire the lawyer. There’s going to be a fine so they’re going to have to give us money for a fine,” said LePage. “It’s a $500 fine. Give me a break.”

LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett would not answer questions seeking clarification on LePage’s public statement.

“You may want to ask the AG since it’s coming from her,” wrote Bennett in an email.

LePage proactively dissed the media for covering this issue.

“I see the press all jumping and their pens flying around,” he said.

That’s what we do when there is news. — Christopher Cousins

Sanders’ Maine delegation challenges party’s change to convention slate

Supporters of Democratic presidential underdog Bernie Sanders in Maine have filed a formal challenge against the Maine Democratic Party’s change to the state’s slate of 30 national convention delegates.

It’s a minor issue surrounding a Democratic National Committee rule that state delegations be evenly divided between men and women. The rule was designed to open the process to women.

Ironically, Maine’s issue was that it had one too many women, and the Sanders group is upset that the party replaced one of its women with a male alternate who also supports Sanders.

The delegation elected by Maine Democrats at the state convention in May had 16 women and 14 men. Sanders, who won the Maine caucuses in March, got 17 delegates to presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton’s eight. The other five are “superdelegates” — party officials who are allowed to support any candidate.

Sanders’ original ticket — excluding superdelegates — had nine men and eight women, while Clinton’s had five women and three men. The imbalance was discovered by the state party in June, according to the complaint, filed by Portland lawyer and Sanders delegate Seth Berner.

Former Maine Democratic Party Executive Director Jeremy Kennedy then called Sanders delegate Diane Denk to see if she’d give up her spot. When she refused, he called another female delegate.

When Denk learned the other delegate’s spot was at risk, she called Kennedy back and offered to step down. She was replaced by alternate David Flores, who the complaint says “has not been a part of our planning or socializing” and may be unprepared to go to the July convention in Philadelphia.

After Denk learned that the party’s interpretation of the rules “may not be correct,” she tried to rescind her resignation, but she was told that the slate was final.

The complaint says that the change was against party rules and a change in the Clinton delegation would be fairer, but it asks the Democratic National Committee to allow the original slate to be seated. — Michael Shepherd

Quick hits

  • The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced today that it has spent more than $1 million on a national ad buy that links Republican candidates to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Lujan named 2nd Congressional District Rep. Bruce Poliquin in a press release: “House Republicans, like Bruce Poliquin, have allowed a man who freely attacks people and intentionally divides our nation to be their standard-bearer without lifting a finger to stop him,” said Lujan. Poliquin has not endorsed Trump to date despite badgering from multiple organizations like the DCCC.
  • The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday passed the Senior Safe Act, which was introduced by Poliquin and Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Simena of Arizona. The bill is designed to protect senior citizens from financial fraud and is mirrored by a similar Senate bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. The bills are designed to protect senior citizens from financial fraud by allowing financial institutions to flag suspicious activity to the proper authorities.
  • U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King of Maine announced today that The Opportunity Alliance will receive more than $2.7 million in federal grants to support early head start and head start programs in Maine. The Opportunity Alliance is the community action agency for Cumberland County and administers a range of programs for low-income families.

Reading list

Heads up: Take a walk

Just FYI: It’s National Take Your Daughter for a Walk day. I think it’s OK to walk with sons, too.

Here’s your soundtrack. — 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.