House Speaker Mark Eves filed an amended lawsuit Friday against Gov. Paul LePage, further accusing the chief executive of violating his rights in the Good Will-Hinckley school hiring controversy.

The 38-page lawsuit was filed just before 11:30 p.m. Friday. The filing in U.S. District Court in Portland, which was expected, starts a clock ticking on a high-stakes legal dispute that will likely take until at least 2017 to be resolved.

With Maine’s Republican governor and top legislative Democrat playing lead roles, the case is likely to generate headlines with each new motion, hearing, filing and press release. What happens in the courtroom also has the potential to worsen the already sour policymaking relationship between the governor and the Legislature.

The new filing includes a detailed timeline of Eves’ hiring by the Fairfield charter school, LePage’s alleged actions and many undisputed statements the governor made to the media leading up to the lawsuit’s initial filing on July 30. It includes details from testimony by witnesses appearing last month – some under subpoena – before the Government Oversight Committee. And the new complaint adds a count under state law against LePage – intentional interference with employment by intimidation – beyond the federal claims Eves made when he first filed the lawsuit.

Eves’ attorney, David Webbert, said he expects from his prior discussion with LePage’s attorney in the case, Patrick Strawbridge, that the governor will first file a motion to dismiss one or both counts in the lawsuit before answering the individual factual claims in the complaint.

“It is a little different from the first one because we know the facts better,” Webbert said. “It is pretty much the governor’s own words. The case pretty much stands on his own statements.”


Webbert said that if LePage files a motion or motions to dismiss, that almost guarantees the case couldn’t reach trial before 2017.

“If he wants it to go quickly, he would file an answer. If he wants it done in 2016, that’s what he would do. The federal courts in Maine move pretty quickly,” Webbert said.

But Strawbridge said Friday afternoon that it is too soon to say how LePage will respond to the lawsuit and that he has until the end of January to decide.

“We look forward to reviewing the amended complaint and mounting the defense for the governor,” Strawbridge said.

Deirdre Smith, a professor at the University of Maine School of Law who has no involvement in the lawsuit, agreed with Webbert’s assessment that the case is unlikely to be resolved in 2016.

“Before the governor were to file even an answer, he has the option to file a motion to dismiss,” Smith said.


She said that since the lawsuit has two counts against the governor, LePage could file a motion to dismiss one or both accounts. It could be months before the governor would be required to file an answer. Then the exchange of evidence, a legal process called discovery, could take another six months followed by another series of legal filings before a judge decides whether the case will go to trial..

“All you need is one count to survive to go forward to trial,” Smith said.

Webbert said he took extra lengths in the amended complaint to explain why he feels federal court is the proper venue to settle Eves’ dispute with the governor. The case involves different branches of government and would affect more people than other civil disputes involving just a few individuals, he said.

“This case transcends Mark Eves. It really is an important case for all of Maine,” Webbert said.

The lawsuit accuses LePage of using taxpayer money and the power of the governor’s office to prevent Eves’ hiring as president of Good Will-Hinckley, which operates a charter school partly funded by the state.

Eves claims the board of directors at Good Will-Hinckley voted on June 24 to rescind a job offer to Eves only after LePage threatened to eliminate $530,000 in state funding for the school.


The amended complaint quotes LePage’s statements to a reporter on June 29, when asked whether he “threatened to withhold money” from Good-Will Hinckley for hiring Eves.

“Yeah, I did! If I could, I would! Absolutely. Why wouldn’t I? Tell me why I wouldn’t take the taxpayer money, to prevent somebody to go into a school and destroy it. Because his heart’s not into doing the right thing for Maine people,” the lawsuit quotes LePage’s response to the reporter.

It also quotes the governor’s statements during a radio interview on July 30, the same day Eves initially filed the lawsuit, when LePage answered a question about why he intervened in the charter school’s hiring of Eves.

“I’ll tell you what my mindset was. This guy is a plant by the unions to destroy charter schools. … I believe that’s what his motive is. … That man had no heart,” the lawsuit quotes LePage as saying. “It is just like one time I stepped in when a domestic violence, when a man was beating his wife. Should I have stepped in? Legally, no. But I did. And I’m not embarrassed about doing it.”

In the short term, the prospect of impeachment proceedings will run parallel to the court case. Four Maine lawmakers have asked Attorney General Janet Mills to authorize a criminal investigation into the governor’s actions. Mills, who could have initiated such an inquiry when the controversy first surfaced in June, is unlikely to do so. The same lawmakers also are discussing impeachment. While a trial in the House of Representatives is a real possibility, a conviction in the Republican controlled Senate appears highly unlikely.

Nationally, there have been 17 impeachment proceedings against governors and eight convictions, according to the Council of State Governments. No Maine governor has ever been impeached.

A prolonged civil case that drags on through the remainder of LePage’s second term has the potential to affect him in a number of ways. The governor’s efforts to advance his policies already are hampered by his estrangement from the Legislature even though his own party controls the Senate. LePage has arguably given up working with the current Legislature, opting instead to tinker with the government machinery through executive power and rulemaking. Such changes can be significant, as the governor’s changes to the state’s welfare system have shown. However, his role in the passage of laws – significantly less reversible than rules or executive orders – has largely stalled since the completion of his first two years in office.

Staff Writer Steve Mistler contributed to this report.


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