Testifying before the Government Oversight Committee, Governor Paul LePage’s senior policy adviser, Aaron Chadbourne, reminded the committee that Speaker Mark Eves, who remains at the center of the controversy, endorsed actions similar to Governor Paul LePage’s in the past.
Chadbourne was subpoenaed to appear before the committee to testify as to the details of a threat by Governor Paul LePage to withhold funding to Good Will-Hinckley, a charter school, over its decision to hire Eves. Democrats have been brutal in attacking the governor for threatening to withhold funds, with some even calling for his impeachment. Eves has gone so far as to file a lawsuit against the governor after Good Will-Hinckley rescinded its job offer.
However, both Eves and then Democratic Senate President Justin Alfond did not speak out against similar actions by Portland Mayor Michael Brennan to withhold funding to a charter school, but in fact supported the mayor’s efforts to investigate the school.
In 2013, Brennan threatened to withhold legally required payments to the Baxter Academy for Technology and Science, a charter school located in Portland. In calling for cutting off the funds, Brennan cited his concerns with leadership at the charter school, a situation that seems to mirror the current Good Will-Hinckley controversy.
“Recent changes to the management of the Portland-based charter school have raised serious questions about its viability,” wrote Brennan to Maine Attorney General Janet Mills.
Brennan also asked the Attorney General to instigate the school’s finances and application process.
After Mills turned down the request and the governor voiced his opposition to Brennan’s actions, both Eves and Alfond, the state’s leading Democrats, asked the Education Committee, co-chaired by Emily Cain, to investigate the charter school for financial mismanagement and its application process. The Education Committee then forwarded this request to the Government Oversight Committee.
“As presiding officers of the Maine Legislature, we have the responsibility to ensure that the Maine State Charter Commission is conducting its business appropriately,” wrote Alfond and Eves in a joint letter. “We want to ensure that this school is managing its operations and spending Maine taxpayer dollars appropriately.”
When Governor Paul LePage threatened to withhold funds to Good Will-Hinckley in June of this year over leadership concerns, Eves responded by calling for an investigation of the Governor, not the school. Eves did not call for an investigation of Mayor Brennan for his threat to withhold funds to Baxter Academy.
In a press release, the Maine Republican Party called Eves’ positions on the two investigations “inconsistent.”
“[T]he Maine GOP believes it is appropriate to point out that Speaker Eves’ did not always see the withholding of funds to charter schools (in the case of the Baxter v. Brennan controversy, the funding was mandatory, not discretionary, in nature), as ‘blackmail’,” stated the Maine GOP in a press release.