A political rival of Gov. Paul LePage lands a job as the president of a non-profit organization that serves at-risk youth. Events unfold quickly after the governor learns the news.

Gov. Paul LePage and his representatives threaten the organization about the hire. They show how serious they are by pulling back state money from the organization, putting other funding in jeopardy. Faced with financial catastrophe, the organization fires House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick.

These allegations are confirmed by the independent probe of the Legislature’s Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability. These events — and what they say about the abuse of public office and taxpayer funds — will be in the spotlight as the Government Oversight Committee, the Legislature’s watchdog panel, holds a public hearing on the OPEGA report.

I urge Mainers to make their voices heard at the public hearing on Thursday. It starts at 9 a.m. and will be held in Room 220 of the Cross Office Building. It’s an opportunity to speak your minds about the report and your expectations for your government.

This fact-finding report will serve as the basis of any further action, including a determination that laws were broken, referral to a special prosecutor, or the initiation of impeachment proceedings.

The questions we must answer are very serious. Questions about intimidation by the state’s highest elected official, the misuse of public funds to punish a lawmaker for his voting record and a political grudge turned personal vendetta that harmed a man’s livelihood.

This is not simply about LePage and Eves.

It’s about each and every Mainer in this state and whether they have to live their lives looking over their shoulders for fear that they might offend the wrong person in power. If they do or say the wrong thing, will they be punished? Do we want our elected representatives answering to us, those who elected them, or to another elected official?

This is, simply, about standing up for our democracy.

That is why I, along with three other lawmakers — Republican, Democratic and independent — asked for the investigation.

Since then, the governor has grabbed every chance to obstruct it. He mistakenly claimed the Legislature wasn’t allowed to investigate him. He and his staff refused to talk to investigators. Two of his top staff members are refusing to appear before the Government Oversight Committee on Thursday.

Last week, we witnessed a new low. The governor’s latest obstructionist tactic was to call for Sen. Roger Katz, an Augusta Republican and co-chairman of the committee, to step down, accusing him of leading a “witch hunt.”

Then LePage went further by threatening Katz. Referring to Eves’ civil suit against him, the governor said, “There’s a federal lawsuit going on and that will vindicate everything we’ve done. Then it will be my turn.”

A governor under investigation for threatening a charitable organization for at-risk youth is now threatening the co-chairman of the panel charged with getting to the bottom of the matter.

LePage has insulted the integrity not just of Katz but of the entire committee. The OPEGA investigation was approved by all 12 members, six Democrats and six Republicans. Each of them, regardless of party, recognized the importance of shining a light on this matter and ensuring Mainers can have faith in their elected leaders.

Should we expect the governor to start making threats, veiled or outright, to the other 11 members? Will the public question whether these lawmakers’ votes are influenced by the governor?

These threats are added to a list that already includes the governor forcing the resignation of the president of the Maine Community College System; pushing out the Maine president of the World Acadian Congress because of a perceived political slight; pressuring unemployment insurance hearing officers to be more sympathetic to employers; pulling routine funding for the Human Rights Commission after his unsuccessful attempt to intervene in one of its cases and then launching a secret investigation into the commission. Lawmakers, meanwhile, hear from community organizations that their funding is being held up or threatened under order of this governor.

When I took the oath of office, I promised to work for the best interests of my constituents and our state. As an elected official, I am committed to working for the kind of government that we all want and deserve. I am committed to our democracy which demands that we all — including elected officials — can speak our mind, and vote our conscience, without the threat of punishment to our personal lives.

Rep. Charlotte Warren, D-Hallowell, is a first-term lawmaker who serves on the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee and the Judiciary Committee.


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