Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, recently elected by new Democratic majorities in the Maine Legislature, has fired Small Business Advocate Jay Martin and hired Peggy Schaffer, a veteran of Democratic politics, for the post.
Schaffer —who has no business experience—has worked as a partisan Democratic staffer in the State House, a public sector lobbyist and a political organizer for Maine’s teachers’ union. She recently wrote an opinion column in the Bangor Daily News critical of private sector employers.
By all accounts, Jay Martin was a competent, knowledgeable and responsive Small Business Advocate for the Office of the Secretary of State. The Legislature created the position in 2011 as a result of the findings of a bipartisan regulatory reform commission.
In addition to over 16 years of experience in the restaurant industry, Martin was instrumental in expanding the Bangor-based publication Coffee News into a national franchise and assisting United Cerebral Palsy of Maine in their acquisition of the Levinson Center.
“Jay Martin was a qualified, nonpolitical advocate for Maine’s small business community,” said Rep. Amy Volk (R-Scarborough), House Republican Lead on the Labor, Commerce, Research, and Economic Development Committee (LCRED). LCRED is the committee of jurisdiction over the Office of the Secretary of State.
“We are very concerned about the decision to terminate Mr. Martin and bring in a replacement with no business experience,” continued Rep. Volk. “It appears to be political patronage or favoritism, and many in the business community have expressed concern to me.”
Rep. Larry Lockman (R-Amherst), also of the LCRED Committee, worked in small business advocacy with the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) for 18 years. “The purpose of the small business advocate is to be a voice for small business in state government,” said Lockman. “How can you be a small business advocate when you’ve spent your career in the public sector? Secretary Dunlap has a reputation for being a reasonable, bipartisan person, so this decision really surprises me.”
“It appears they have gotten rid of a qualified small business advocate and replaced him with a partisan with no small business experience,” added Rep. Volk. “My Republican colleagues on the committee and I feel that the Secretary should explain his decision.”