SCARBOROUGH — A Westbrook city councilor told about 150 people attending a public meeting to discuss a Democratic tax plan Tuesday that it wouldn’t bother him if Gov. Paul LePage “goes to see his maker.”

Paul Emery, the city councilor representing Westbrook’s Ward 3, made the comments during a town hall meeting hosted by Maine Democratic leaders at Camp Ketcha in Scarborough. The hearing was held to inform the public about the Democrats’ counterproposal to LePage’s tax reform plan.

Emery rose during an audience question-and-answer session to ask whether the plan would help localities pay for roads and bridges. He first lamented that the Westbrook City Council had recently voted to raise property taxes. He then made his comments about LePage.

“If he goes to see his maker it wouldn’t hurt my feelings a bit,” Emery said.

“In some countries assassination is a political strategy,” he continued, “but unfortunately not here.”

Members of the audience sat in stunned silence and several groaned.

Emery later apologized for the comments.

After reading the comments on the Portland Press Herald website, several Westbrook officials condemned them in an emailed statement.

“We are shocked to read the quotes attributed to Councilor Emery in this evening’s article,” said Westbrook Mayor Colleen Hilton, City Council President Brendan Rielly and Council Vice President Michael Foley. “If those are accurate, they are entirely inappropriate and do not, in any way, represent the City of Westbrook. To speak of assassinations is never acceptable. We pride ourselves on working with local, state and federal leaders of all political parties in a civil and constructive way.”

A call requesting a comment from LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett was not returned Tuesday night.

When asked about his comments after the meeting, Emery denied making them until a Press Herald reporter said he had recorded them. Emery then acknowledged making the comments, but downplayed them.

“It was a joke,” he said.

When told some people might find his comments offensive, Emery said, “Who, Gov. LePage? Good.”

Emery then asked the reporter not to publish his remarks. He became frustrated when he was told that his comments were made in a public forum and that he was an elected official.

“There’s no way of talking you out of this?” he said. “Then go ahead and crucify me.”

Later, Emery approached the reporter and asked how the comments were recorded. When the reporter said they were recorded on his cellphone, Emery grabbed the device, put it in his pocket and attempted to walk away. He refused to give the cellphone back until several organizers at the event intervened.

Emery relented and turned it over. He apologized for his behavior several minutes later.

“It was unacceptable,” he said.

House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, who co-hosted the event with Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland, told the Press Herald that he should have told Emery that the comments were inappropriate when he first made them, but didn’t know whether doing so would have inflamed the situation.

“We condemn what he said in the strongest possible way,” Eves said. “That’s not what our public discourse should be about.”

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

[email protected]

Twitter: stevemistler

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