The chairman of the Good Will-Hinckley school board said his organization is “apolitical,” even though it has selected Democratic speakers of the Maine House to lead the school twice since 2010.

Jack Moore said the board contains members of all political stripes and that politics played no role in the selection of Glenn Cummings, a former House speaker who was president of Good Will-Hinckley from 2010 to 2014; or Mark Eves, the current House speaker who on June 9 was picked as Cummings’ replacement. Eves’ job offer from the school was withdrawn Wednesday after, Eves said, Gov. Paul LePage “blackmailed” the board into rescinding the job by threatening to withhold $530,000 in state funding for the school.

The board said the votes on both Eves’ initial selection to lead the school for troubled youth and the decision to withdraw the job offer were unanimous. Erik Jorgensen, a board member and Democratic House member from Portland, did not participate in any discussions involving Eves’ candidacy or the votes, a board spokesman said.

The spokesman, Tom Janenda, also said that LePage has incorrectly asserted that Bill Brown, a legislative aide to Eves, played a role in the selection of Eves. Janenda said Brown is a member of the board of a charter school operated by Good Will-Hinckley, but neither he nor anyone on that board was involved in the decision to hire Eves or to withdraw the job offer.

Moore said the board did not consider politics in its search for a new president.

“We did not exclude any candidate for political reasons and we did not seek any political affiliation,” Moore said in a written statement issued Thursday. Moore and other board members did not return calls seeking interviews Thursday.

NO DONATIONS TO LEPAGE OR OPPONENTS

A search of political donations did not reveal any donations to LePage or his opponents in the last election by board officers, although Moore did contribute to the campaigns of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, both Republicans.

The board said Tuesday it decided to withdraw the job offer to Eves and reopen the search for a new president because of “the institution’s desire not to be involved in political controversy that will divert attention away from our core mission of serving children and has the potential to jeopardize the future of our school.” The statement did not mention state funding.

Eves complained that the decision was the result of pressure by LePage, who wrote a sharply critical letter to the board two weeks ago questioning Eves’ qualifications and character, and telling the board it shouldn’t select him. After the board went ahead and named Eves president, with his job to begin Wednesday, Eves said board members told him last Friday that the governor was going to withhold state funds if he took the position. The state had been expected to give the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, a charter school operated by Good Will-Hinckley, $530,000.

The school’s move prompted calls for impeachment proceedings against the governor by some Democrats and a warning from Attorney General Janet Mills that she was “very troubled” by the legal implications of what LePage had done.

The school operates on a $4.5 million budget this year and projects a $4.8 million budget next year, Janenda said. It had an enrollment of 76 students in the charter school this year and 36 at Good Will-Hinckley, he said, with both numbers expected to rise significantly next year.

FUNDING LOSS CLOSED SCHOOL IN 2009

Good Will-Hinckley was founded in 1889 as a farm, school and home for needy boys and has operated on donations and government grants for most of its existence. It 2009, its residential and most of its educational programs were shut down after federal and state funding dried up, but it geared back up two years later after tapping an endowment, selling a large chunk of land to Kennebec Valley Community College, and getting state funding restored to operate the charter school. LePage had supported the state funding at the time.

Good Will-Hinckley also has gotten significant financial support from the Harold Alfond Foundation, which provided $1.5 million in 2014 and had committed to another $4 million in funding this year. However, the foundation wrote school officials last week, saying it was concerned that the “likely” loss of state funding threatened the school’s “future financial viability” and could make it hard for Good Will-Hinckley to meet enrollment and other goals that the grants required.

The school said it will now start searching for a new president and those who applied for the job that eventually went to Eves are welcome to reapply.

Janenda declined to say how many applicants it received for the job initially or to characterize the types of experience or qualifications most of those seeking the presidency possessed.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

[email protected]