Commentary

Lockman: Cronyism, Corruption and the Saga of Good Will-Hinckley

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It’s a new year, and being an even-numbered year, it’s an election year, which means all 186 seats in the Maine Legislature are up for grabs in November.

And whether we like it or not, politics will dominate this year’s short session of the Legislature, which convened on January 6th, and is scheduled for adjournment on April 20th.

Even before the opening gavel came down, legislators were confronted with a proposed impeachment order calling on us to investigate allegations that Gov. Paul LePage has engaged in such egregious misconduct that he should be removed from office. Sponsored by Rep. Ben Chipman, D-Portland, the impeachment order is rumored to be ready for action on the floor of the House by Thursday, January 14th.

The heart of Chipman’s complaint accuses the Governor of using state assets to “intimidate” the Board of Directors of Good Will-Hinckley in June 2015 into terminating its employment of Speaker of the House Mark Eves as the new President of GWH and its charter school.

Frankly, the impeachment bandwagon is being driven by the politics of resentment and a nasty strain of LePage Derangement Syndrome. That persistent low-grade fever has driven progressives and their allies in the media to lash out against LePage for nearly six years. They just can’t accept the fact that Maine voters elected and re-elected this straight-talking, politically-incorrect businessman who came to Augusta on a mission to reform state government and put an end to politics as usual.

In fact, the LePage haters are so delusional at this point that they don’t understand that the Good Will-Hinckley controversy plays to the Governor’s strength as a bold leader and  executive. Thanks to the vigilance of Gov. Paul LePage, Maine people are beginning to get a glimpse of the rampant cronyism and corruption that enables part-time citizen legislators to catapult themselves into permanent high-paying jobs in Maine’s lucrative nonprofit industrial complex.

This story has been in the news off and on for the past six months, and it’s the rallying cry of the Governor’s foes inside and outside the Statehouse. But the months-long legislative investigation into alleged misconduct by the Governor didn’t find any “smoking gun,” at least not in the Governor’s office.

LePage said right from the beginning that he would not sit idly while the state’s first charter school hired a President who has opposed charter schools since he was first elected to the Legislature in 2008. Not to mention the blatant cronyism of Speaker Eve’s high-paid partisan staffer Bill Brown serving simultaneously as Chairman of the Board at GWH during the search and selection process.

Maine taxpayers are paying Brown in excess of $90,000 a year to assist the Speaker in his official duties as the presiding officer of the House. But in his spare time, Brown was busy bending the hiring process at GWH to make sure Eves got the job.

“This back-room deal between cronies is exactly the kind of political corruption I came to Augusta to fight against,” said Governor LePage. “Speaker Eves has been an ardent foe of charter schools for his entire political career, then he turns around and gets hired to run a charter school—whose board is chaired by Eves’ own State House employee—for a cushy job worth about $150,000 in total compensation.”

In a move sure to add fuel to the fire, Brown abruptly resigned last week from his position as Chairman of the GWH board of directors.

And let’s not forget that Eves walked away with a $30,000 “severance package” but didn’t work a single day for Good Will-Hinckley. Eves’ golden parachute is more money than legislators earn in salary for the entire two-year term.

Clearly, the smoking gun isn’t in the Governor’s office. It’s right behind the House chamber, in Speaker Eves’ office.

This whole sordid affair is reminiscent of other Democrat legislators who used their seats in the Legislature as stepping stones to lucrative jobs for which they were not qualified. Former state senator Dale McCormick landed a cushy job at the Maine State Housing Authority, about the same time that another former Democrat state senator, Paul Violette, took the reins at the Maine Turnpike Authority.

It was only when the new sheriff rode into Dodge City that these crooks and cronies were driven from office. Our Governor Paul LePage is still doing the job Maine people sent him to Augusta to do.

And that’s exactly why the slings and arrows continue to fly in the Governor’s direction. He has busted up the corrupt status quo in Augusta.

Stay the course, Governor. The Maine people have your back.

About Larry Lockman

State Representative Larry Lockman represents Maine House District 137, which includes parts of Hancock, Washington, and Penobscot counties. He may be contacted at Lawrence.Lockman@legislature.maine.gov

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