THORNDIKE – The LePage administration is considering new ways to tackle welfare abuse, including hiring private investigators or putting the attorney general in charge of the welfare fraud division, Gov. Paul LePage said Thursday at his monthly town hall meeting.

The governor also took a tough question about why he did not serve in Vietnam.

About midway through the program, Catherine Burns of Skowhegan, who said her son Sgt. Brett Pelotte died of a heart attack while on active duty in 2003, asked the governor why he didn’t serve in Vietnam.

She asked why he moved to Canada after he finished college at Husson University in Bangor.

“I did not go to Canada because of the draft,” he said. “My lottery number was 342. If you look at the Selective Service System in 1969, when I was a sophomore in college, President Richard Nixon changed the draft system to a lottery system. We all got a number based on your birthday.”

He said his birthday, Oct. 9, got the number 342.

“I went to Canada because I married my college sweetheart,” he said. “I am very sorry you lost your son.”

LePage went on to say that during antiwar protests at Husson, he supported the military. “I was pro-military all the way, even back then,” he said, drawing applause from the audience.

As she walked out of the auditorium, Burns, wearing a “61%” sticker, indicating the percentage of voters who did not support LePage in last year’s election, yelled that he is a “phony.”

The town hall was LePage’s ninth this year. He started his tour in southern Maine in February and has been to a different county each month since then.

About 200 people came to the Mount View High School auditorium for Waldo County’s town hall, which included six of LePage’s Cabinet members and state Treasurer Bruce Poliquin.

During the meeting, a woman who identified herself as a Democrat asked why the Republican governor hasn’t done more to crack down on Medicaid fraud.

“You haven’t seen it happening because we are in the process of doing it,” LePage said.

The administration is evaluating options for addressing welfare fraud. The responsibility may stay with the Department of Health and Human Services, and LePage said he will have a firm recommendation early next year.

“It’s a monster of a program,” he said, noting that 330,000 Mainers get Medicaid benefits.

Another tough question came from a man who said he has had to increase the care for his daughter, who is in her 30s and has Down syndrome, because the state doesn’t provide enough help. He said he moved to Maine from Ohio, where she was able to work in the community with supported services.
DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew said she’s working to find money for such programs.

“Those waiting lists are a crime,” she said. “We truly are committed to identifying resources to reduce those waiting lists.”

Another questioner wanted to know if state officials will investigate state agencies to look for ways to save money.

Poliquin said that the governor has not reappointed members of the MaineHousing Board of Directors, and that the state has taken steps to reduce costs in the agency. Earlier this week, a legislative committee voted to review programs and spending in MaineHousing.

“The good news, ma’am, is we have adults involved,” Poliquin said. “The cavalry has arrived.”

MaineToday Media State House Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at: [email protected]