The feud between Gov. Paul LePage and top Republicans in the Maine Senate does not appear to be over.

LePage told reporters Tuesday morning that he thinks the investigation authorized by the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee into whether he pressured Good Will-Hinckley not to hire Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves was initiated by Sen. Roger Katz, who co-chairs the committee.

“This is a witch hunt by Sen. Roger Katz,” LePage said in a statement Tuesday. “He’s been chasing me down since January of 2011. I have no reason why.”

LePage went on to go after Katz even more pointedly.

“I request Sen. Katz to step down from the (Government Oversight Committee) because he has a clear conflict of interest,” the governor said in his statement. “He has already drawn factual conclusions and announced them publicly.”

The top two Republicans in the Senate, President Mike Thibodeau and Majority Leader Garrett Mason, quickly issued statements in support of Katz, which could further escalate a growing discord between the governor and key lawmakers within his own party.


Katz, a moderate Republican from Augusta, has frequently challenged the governor on policy issues over the last four years. He was among several legislators who expressed concern earlier this year that LePage may have overstepped his authority by wading into Good Will-Hinckley’s decision to hire Eves.

Good Will-Hinckley’s board of directors rescinded its offer to Eves after the governor threatened to withhold state funding from the educational facility in Fairfield, home to Maine’s first charter school.

LePage is now being investigated by the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability. His office said this week that it will not make staffers available for interviews but will respond to written questions. Eves has sued LePage in federal court, and the governor’s office has cited that lawsuit as the reason for not agreeing to interviews.

Katz told the Portland Press Herald this week that he was disappointed that the governor would not allow his advisers to testify, considering they are not parties in the lawsuit. “Transparency ought to be everyone’s goal,” Katz said.

In his meeting with reporters earlier in the day, LePage hinted that he would retaliate against Katz but was not specific.

“There’s a federal lawsuit going on and that will vindicate everything we’ve done. Then it will be my turn,” he said.


Katz said late Tuesday that the request to investigate the governor did not come from him, but from four other lawmakers – two Democrats, one Republican and one independent.

“As Senate chair I plan to run the hearing in a fair and impartial way, as I always do,” Katz said. “With all due respect to governor, he doesn’t get to choose the makeup of a legislative committee.”

Thibodeau, of Winterport, called the governor’s request “unwarranted.”

“Senator Katz is precisely the right person to lead this committee,” Thibodeau said in a statement. “His integrity and fair-mindedness as an elected official are well-established and respected. That is exactly why I appointed him.

“The fact of the matter is the Government Oversight Committee, comprised of an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, voted unanimously to undertake this review,” Thibodeau said.

Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason of Lisbon Falls also sided with Katz.

“Having served on the Government Oversight Committee with Senator Katz, I can attest to the fact he is precisely who we need at the helm of such a panel,” Mason said in a statement. “There is no doubt in my mind that he conducts the business of the committee, and will continue to do so, in a manner that Mainers can be proud of.”

Katz was the most vocal Republican to criticize LePage about his decision not to issue $11.5 million in voter-approved conservation bonds. Katz even sponsored a bill that sought to take that power away from the governor. The bill passed but was narrowly overturned on a veto after six Republicans switched their initial votes at the governor’s request.

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