AUGUSTA –– Maine’s three constitutional officers were sworn in Thursday by Gov. Paul LePage, although only one took the oath at a public ceremony.

Attorney General Janet Mills, Secretary of State Matt Dunlap and state Treasurer Terry Hayes, each elected by the Legislature, will all serve two-year terms.

Mills and Dunlap, both Democrats, were sworn in during private ceremonies at the State House. Hayes, a former Democratic lawmaker nominated by Republicans for the post in December, received a public ceremony in the Hall of Flags. The slight to Mills and Dunlap occurred even as the governor and Democrats speak of a new spirit of cooperation during LePage’s next four years in office.

Neither Mills nor Dunlap commented on the governor’s decision. Mills, emerging from the governor’s Cabinet room, said she told LePage that she “looked forward to working with him.”

That wasn’t always the case during Mills’ previous two-year term.

Mills’ office represents state agencies and the governor’s office in most legal disputes. However, she has publicly clashed with the governor on numerous occasions, particularly on legal matters. She has advised the governor not to pursue some court actions, and refused to represent the administration in some cases.

In November, a federal appeals court ruled against the administration’s attempt to remove 19- and 20-year-olds from coverage under MaineCare. Mills had advised the governor not to pursue the case, arguing that the cuts likely violated federal law.

When she refused to argue the case for the state, LePage was forced to tap his contingency fund to hire outside legal counsel. This week the Associated Press reported that the administration spent $53,000 on private counsel.

All three constitutional officers spoke during a joint ceremony in the House of Representatives after taking their oaths.

Mills downplayed public perceptions about her relationship with the governor, saying her conflicts with LePage overshadowed the instances when her office and his worked together.

“While it’s true you probably won’t catch Gov. LePage and me sitting down, sharing a glass of Chardonnay, eating Brie and watching ‘Downton Abbey’ together, you will see my office working with the departments of state government and representing the state in nearly 7,000 separate legal matters,” she said in a prepared statement. “We work together. And for the most part, the interests of my office, the interests of the Maine Legislature and the interests of the administration are well-aligned.”

Dunlap mentioned the private swearing in ceremony during his remarks in the House of Representatives. He told the assembly that he was sorry if they missed the ceremony, but it was held “in a custodian’s closet.”

Hayes devoted most of her speech to thanking her friends and family. She acknowledged that her path to the position was unusual. She also mentioned her decision to leave the Democratic Party. Hayes was the former assistant minority leader in 2011 and 2012.

LePage has pushed to change how the state’s top law enforcement official is elected. Maine is currently the only state that selects its attorney general with a vote by the Legislature. The governor says the position should be popularly elected.

Steve Mistler can be contacted at 791-6345 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @stevemistler

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.