Gov. LePage threatens funding for at-risk children to get House Speaker fired

Gov. LePage threatens funding for at-risk children to get House Speaker fired

Good Will-Hinckley, a charity that operates a day treatment school focused on children with social, emotional, and behavioral challenges in Fairfield, has fired Democratic Maine House Speaker Mark Eves without cause after Governor Paul LePage threatened to pull state funding for the school. Eves had been hired as the organization’s new president at the end of May.

“Gov. LePage is blackmailing a school for at-risk children because I have opposed his policies,” said Eves in a written statement. “He has threatened the Good Will-Hinckley School to either fire me or lose over $500,000 in budgeted state funds and thereby lose another $2,000,000 in private funding. 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.”

Eves is a frequent rhetorical target for LePage, who blames the Speaker for leading the legislature in rejecting many of his budget proposals. The governor had previously sent a letter to the board of the organization attempting to prevent Eves being hired.

“The number one priority for the governor is that the students are put first,” the governor’s spokesperson, Adrienne Bennett, told the Bangor Daily News in defense of LePage’s actions. “The fact that Speaker Eves votes and has explicitly expressed his concern with charter schools is concerning to the governor. How do you support kids within a charter school if you are against the very school that they’re in?”

Good Will-Hinckley also operates the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, a non-profit charter school.

“Under the First Amendment, the Governor is clearly prohibited from using the money of our state government to exact revenge on public officials because they do not vote the way the Governor wants. This is not how Maine’s system of government is supposed to work,” said David Webbert, a civil rights attorney retained by Eves. “The Governor is not above the law and his illegal use of our government money to retaliate against the Speaker of the House must not be allowed to stand.”

Maine’s part-time legislators make around $12,000 a year and most have other employment while the legislature is not in session.

“The Governor’s actions should deeply trouble every single taxpayer, Maine resident, and member of our citizen legislature. I have strongly disagreed with the Governor on many issues, but I have never gone after his family the way he has gone after me personally, my wife, and my three children,” said Eves.

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