NORTH BERWICK — When I entered Maine politics eight years ago, I did it to serve my neighbors. At the time, my wife and I were raising our young children in North Berwick.

As the son of a pastor in the military and a schoolteacher, I was taught to always give back to my community and to serve the public.

The values my parents instilled in me have guided me in my career as a therapist and an administrator – counseling and overseeing programs to help at-risk youth and struggling families. These are the same values that led me to run for the Legislature and guide me now as speaker of the House.

Never would I have imagined that after nearly four terms – two as speaker – that I would be suing the governor of Maine.

My wife, Laura, and I did not make this decision lightly. We did it to seek justice for our family and for every Maine family. We brought the suit against the governor to make sure that in the future every Maine citizen, legislator and private organization will feel safe speaking freely and independently without fear of personal retribution.

By now, many of you have probably read the headlines or watched the news about my lawsuit against the governor. But the facts bear repeating.

Last month, Gov. Paul LePage threatened that unless I was fired, he would pull state funding from a private nonprofit organization that had hired me to be its president. The governor has admitted making the threat. He’s even bragged about it.

As speaker of the House, I serve as a citizen legislator, which means I also have a job in my private life. With my term coming to an end, I applied for the job of president at Good Will-Hinckley, a nonprofit that operates a charter school serving at-risk and nontraditional students. I did so because for my entire career, I have worked on the front lines as a therapist and an administrator helping at-risk children and families.

After a nine-month national search, the agency’s board of directors unanimously voted to hire me as president, based on my 15 years of experience in the behavioral health field and on my leadership in the Maine House of Representatives.

When Gov. LePage heard the news, he was apparently infuriated. In previous weeks, I had gone on the record making clear that I would not support his budget and his irresponsible plan to abolish the income tax, and neither would the House Democrats. We also had disagreements over his energy and education policies. Those passionate disagreements are a normal part of politics.

Acting out of what must have been personal rage, vindictiveness and partisan malice, Gov. LePage broke federal law by threatening Good Will-Hinckley – in a secret, handwritten note. The governor knew the state funding cuts he threatened would result in the loss of significant private dollars, forcing the school operated by Good Will-Hinckley to close.

He was willing to risk the future of hundreds of students to punish a political opponent. And he was willing to override the careful hiring decision of a private organization. Because of the governor’s threat, Good Will-Hinckley was forced to fire me without any cause.

The facts in the case are not in dispute. The governor used taxpayer dollars to punish me for speaking out against his misguided positions on education, energy and taxation.

His actions are a blatant violation of the First Amendment rights of all Maine citizens who are entitled to have their legislators speak out freely and independently. The governor’s action against Good Will-Hinckley and me is just one example of how he regularly uses his powers as governor to bully and intimidate anyone who dares to disagree with him.

Gov. LePage’s continuing abuses of power for partisan purposes threaten to destroy the ability of Maine’s citizen Legislature to serve its vital constitutional function as an independent check on the power of the executive branch.

The time has come for someone to stand up to the illegal bullying and blackmail of the governor. His actions stand in stark contrast to Maine’s tradition of its political leaders working together to serve the people. Our children are watching. We cannot allow our next generation to grow up thinking that blackmail and abusing power is normal or tolerated.

Gov. LePage was elected in November to serve the people of Maine, not to threaten and demean them. As the top official for Maine’s elected representatives, I will make sure that the governor is held accountable for his reckless abuse of power that threatens the rights of all of us.