The best-case scenario for filling the vacant spots in Kennebec County government — the best way to ensure that the people’s business gets done — would have been for Chief Deputy Ryan Reardon to move one spot up into the sheriff’s role and for a qualified candidate to be quickly seated on the county commission.

But Gov. Paul LePage took four months to complete his constitutional duty by appointing a new commissioner, a fact that was overshadowed after the governor last week refused to name as sheriff the nominee provided by county Democrats, citing, in an irony of ironies, constitutional issues, however questionable.

This isn’t the first time LePage has picked a fight for little other reason than to antagonize an opponent. In fact, it may be his defining characteristic.

And it may be even a little amusing in some way, were it not for the very real consequences these petty actions have had on the people who stand on the periphery of his targets.

Following the death of Commissioner Beverly Daggett last year, Kennebec County Democrats forwarded to LePage on Oct. 22 the names of two candidates to replace her, along with Reardon’s nomination to replace Sheriff Randall Liberty, who LePage had named warden of Maine State Prison.

In response, LePage said he wanted more names to choose from, and he refused to act on the commissioner nomination until last week, when he finally appointed one of the Democrats’ nominees to serve out the remainder of Daggett’s term.

However, Maine law does not specify how many nominees the party is supposed to provide. Even under the questionable interpretation LePage has put forth in the debate over the sheriff nomination, the most nominees the party could be forced to submit is two.

So the only reason he had to hold off on the appointment of a new commissioner, and get in the way of the work of the commission, was to spite the party, or to create leverage to get his way on the sheriff nomination.

That’s not an expansion of executive power — it’s a hostage situation.

It’s the same tactic LePage used to bypass voter and legislative intent before, stopping meaningful work by the Land for Maine’s Future board for more than a year, and killing the Board of Corrections, negating a year of work on jail reform.

It’s the same philosophy that led him to appoint — illegally, it appears — Ken Mason as the new Kennebec County sheriff, bypassing Reardon.

Both Reardon and Mason have resumes fit for a county sheriff, but Reardon was already in place as interim sheriff after serving as chief deputy. If LePage had based his decision on what was best for the people of Kennebec County, then continuity should have mattered, making Reardon the best candidate to serve through the November election.

(It should be noted, however, that the county Democrats did not follow this principle either when they nominated Maeghan Maloney, and not the deputy district attorney, for the vacant DA position in 2012, perhaps making this standoff more likely.)

Instead, the governor chose a path that will likely lead to an unnecessary legal battle. It’s disruption for disruption’s sake.

Somewhere along the way, he forgot that the purpose of his office is to help solve problems, not create them.

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