While there is still a dispute about what exactly was said to a group of unemployment hearing officers at a now-famous Blaine House lunch last month, two things are certain.

One is that Gov. Paul LePage invited the people who decide unemployment claims to the Blaine House and told them that he had heard reports that they were being too hard on employers when they decide cases. The other is, that meeting never should have happened.

The governor has no more business telling hearing officers how to decide cases than he would assembling a group of umpires to tell them to call more strikes.

The only appropriate instruction he should be giving to these officials is to apply the law to the facts and call them as they see them.

News that LePage may have tried to pressure the hearing officers has set off a chorus of criticism from several dirctions.

First, the Lewiston Sun Journal published quotes from unnamed attendees who said the governor was pushing them to be more friendly to businesses and less sympathetic to employees.


The administration disputes that was what the governor said at the meeting, but emails exchanged by department employees after the session, which were made public in response to a freedom of information request made by MaineToday Media, support the anonymous quotes.

These reports may have been what led federal officials to come to Maine and complete an audit of the unemployment program, which is run by the state but uses entirely federal funds.

The governor’s defenders predictably will say this is the governor’s style. He is a plain-spoken boss who gruffly told some of his employees things they didn’t want to hear.

This, however, is not a question of style. What’s in dispute here is whether the governor went too far and interfered with what is supposed to be an impartial process.

The governor may be the most powerful person in our system of goverment, but that doesn’t mean that all the state employees work for him. Career employees are responsible to the state, no matter who is in power, and that keeps government from turning into a machine that dispenses favors or punishment at the chief executive’s whim.

Business leaders who have lost an unemployment case are not well-postitioned to judge if the process has been fair. Federal records show that employers win most cases in Maine, indicating that the process already is business-friendly.

Even if he heard complaints about the process, the governor would have been wise to stay out of a place where he does not belong.

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