Norman Olsen spent 25 years in the U.S. Foreign Service, dispatched to trouble spots around the globe. But he had to come home to Maine to find out what backstabbing feels like.

Olsen resigned this week, six months into his term as commissioner of Marine Resources, saying that industry pressure on Gov. Paul LePage undermined his ability to carry out the policies he felt were in the state’s best interest.

A LePage spokesman denied the allegation, saying it wasn’t differences about policy, but Olsen’s inability to develop relationships in a complicated political environment, which led to his resignation. If so, LePage wouldn’t be the first governor to appoint the wrong person to a hard job, and he won’t be the last.

But a scathing statement released by Olsen says the problem goes much deeper and raises questions about the governor’s commitment and leadership.

Olsen says his statements in favor of allowing groundfishermen to land lobsters caught in their nets and the creation of a fair and open system for transferring lobster licenses — policies he says the governor supported — drew the ire of powerful people who like things the way they are.

Olsen says that the industry got the governor’s ear, and Olsen was ordered to make up with lobstermen or else.

That’s a serious charge, but LePage is not answering it directly. That’s typical of the governor, who likes to portray himself as a blunt-speaking straight-shooter, but treats the resignation of high-ranking state officials as if it were nobody’s business.

More important than his denials, either directly or through a spokesman, LePage should speak through his actions if he wants to refute Olsen’s allegations.

If it were really a matter of personal style that did Olsen in, then we should expect LePage and his new commissioner to continue to push for the policy priorities that Olsen says he was hired to implement.

LePage also should release the results of a top-to-bottom review of the department that began on July 1, a review that Olsen said people already are trying to cover up.

If those initiatives are dropped, however, we’ll know that Olsen was right when he said that the administration is “more interested in pacifying special interest groups than in responsibly managing Maine’s marine resources for the benefit of the entire state.”

If that’s the case, it’s bad news for Maine.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.