On Tuesday, Governor LePage requested that State Senator Roger Katz (R-Augusta) step down as co-chair of the Government Oversight Committee (GOC), claiming that Katz has shown “bias” against the governor which could jeopardize his impartiality in assessing a report released last month concerning the Good Will-Hinckley controversy.
As co-chair of the GOC, one of Senator Katz’s responsibilities is to review the report released by the nonpartisan Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability (OPEGA) regarding LePage’s potential role in pressuring Good Will-Hinckley to rescind a job offer it had extended to Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves.
“I request Sen. Katz to step down from the GOC because he has a clear conflict of interest,” said LePage in a statement. “He has already drawn factual conclusions and announced them publicly,” the governor continued, charging that Katz has promoted “a political witch hunt.”
Speaking on the George Hale Ric Tyler Show on Wednesday morning, Senator Katz denied that he has engaged in a “witch hunt” against the governor and repeatedly called LePage’s recusal request a “distraction” from important issues. Katz said he was focused on “getting the facts out, from which people can draw their own conclusions.” He also pointed out that the GOC is composed of twelve legislators, six Republicans and six Democrats, all of whom approved the investigation undertaken by OPEGA.
Several Senate Republicans have voiced their support for Katz, an indication of the continuing rift between the governor and legislative leaders. In a press release, Republican Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason (R-Lisbon Falls) wrote that he “could attest to the fact [Katz] is precisely who we need at the helm of such a panel. There is no doubt in my mind that he conducts the business of the committee, and will continue to do so, in a manner that Mainers can be proud of.”
“Sen. Katz is precisely the right person to lead this committee,” said Republican Senate President Mike Thibodeau (R-Winterport). “His integrity and fair-mindedness as an elected official are well-established and respected. That is exactly why I appointed him.”