Sunday, October 18, 2015

Public invited to speak on investigating into Governor LePage and Good Will-Hinkley affair - By Sen. Bill Diamond

Allegations of impropriety by Gov. Paul LePage regarding funding for the Good Will-Hinckley organization are serious business and deserve a thorough and fair review to determine whether any wrongdoing took place.
That’s why the Government Oversight Committee, of which I am a member, was tasked with conducting a fact-finding probe into the issue — to answer questions for the public over what, exactly, happened.
At the committee’s direction, the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability conducted an initial investigation and reported its findings several weeks ago. It found that the governor and members of his administration opposed the decision of Good Will-Hinckley to hire House Speaker Mark Eves as its new president.

Gov. LePage told Good Will-Hinckley — a nonprofit that works with at-risk children — that it had lost his support, and the governor’s top education official canceled a previously approved payment to the organization.

The governor threatened to cut more than half a million dollars per year in funding to GWH’s Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, a charter school that provides science-based education, if the speaker was made president. That threat came at a critical time financially for the school, jeopardizing the organization's continued existence. It was also clear in the report that the governor would restore funding if the speaker were fired.

Good Will-Hinckley acquiesced to the governor's wishes and fired Speaker Eves and consequently funding was restored.

OPEGA’s investigation was thorough and well-conducted. But the committee has more questions for several key actors in the Good Will-Hinckley affair, including the acting education commissioner, a top policy adviser to the governor and the governor's attorney. We’ve invited them to come speak with the committee and answer questions at our next meeting on October 15.

I trust those officials will come to answer our questions and clear the air. However, the committee does ultimately have subpoena power, if needed.

Equally important, though, is the opportunity of members of the public to come forward to provide testimony to the committee about the Governor’s actions regarding Good Will-Hinckley. Our job on the Government Oversight Committee is to bring all the relevant facts to light, for the public good. If wrongdoing is discovered, the legislature may decide to take further action.

But it’s imperative that members of the public have a chance to weigh in. So I invite you to submit testimony to me ahead of our next meeting or, if you’re able, to attend the meeting to testify in person. You will be given time to address the committee and speak your mind.

The committee will meet at 9 a.m. Thursday, October 15, in the Cross Office Building at the State House complex in Augusta.

As always, please feel free to contact me at or (207) 287-1515.

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