It shouldn’t take a subpoena to force the governor to take part in government, but here we are.

Faced with reasonable questions on the troubled rollout of a new unemployment claims system and the distribution of timber from state-owned lands last week, the administration all but stonewalled legislators, giving the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee little choice but to launch two investigations.

That’s a lot for the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability, which is already conducting a probe into the state’s child welfare system following the deaths of two girls from suspected child abuse. It would be ideal for the agency to focus on just that review, but what are you going to do when the governor refuses to let the Legislature do its job?

The options, unfortunately, are few. Gov. Paul LePage has for years refused to make his commissioners and other administration officials available to the legislative committees tasked with overseeing state departments. He is disdainful of the Legislature and skeptical of its motives in a way that often transcends politics, and borders on delusional.

The way the governor sees it, he and his staff are the ones working for the people of Maine while the Legislature dithers and grandstands. Their questions are uninformed, or driven by agenda, and don’t deserve a response.

That’s a problem, here in the real world, where LePage has so much to answer for.


Last week, it was first questions over the allocation of timber from state-owned lands. In February, the Bureau of Public Lands stopped shipping such timber to mills owned by Jason and Chris Brochu, sending it instead to a Canadian-owned mill.

The change came after LePage and the Brochus exchanged barbs related to the governor’s opposition to U.S. tariffs on Canadian timber. After the Brochus asked in an op-ed why LePage would oppose tariffs that help Maine businesses, the governor said the brothers were motivated by “personal greed and self-interest.” When the state-owned timber stopped coming, the Brochus wondered if it might not have something to do with the disagreement.

In response, legislators sent a list of questions on the timber allocations to Doug Denico, director of the Maine Forest Service, and asked him to appear before the forestry committee. Instead, LePage himself showed up. as unhelpful as ever.

Without providing answers to the committee’s questions, the governor called the allegations “totally fictional and outrageous.” He called lawmakers who were simply asking questions liars. “I don’t trust you,” he told the committee. “I resent that smile,” he said to Sen. Tom Saviello, a Republican, when the senator thanked him for coming.

The administration has been just as disagreeable in relation to the unemployment claims system, which has been beset by problems since it was launched in December. The Department of Labor first blamed users, then went silent, refusing to answer questions from legislators or the media on why people were unable to submit claims, or to address concerns raised by whistleblowers from within the department.

The department finally issued a response late last week in the form of a memo refuting the allegations. But the answers were incomplete, as is typical of the administration, and no one was made available to clear up or expand on them.

Such secrecy could raise questions about the administration’s motives. But there doesn’t have to be anything nefarious at play for legislators to wonder why the new claims system hit a snag, or the allocation of timber suddenly changed. When faced with questions from constituents, it is their job to seek out answers.

It is the governor’s job, too, to answer questions about public administration. Unfortunately, it often takes the force of law for him to do it.

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