April 23, 2013

LePage names co-chairs of unemployment investigation

The governor is accused of pressuring unemployment hearing officers to decide more cases in favor of business.

From staff and wire reports

Gov. Paul LePage announced Tuesday two co-chairs of the commission that will investigate Maine’s unemployment compensation system.

LePage tapped George Jabar, a Kennebec County commissioner and Waterville attorney, and former Maine Supreme Judicial Court Justice Daniel Wathen to serve on the panel.

The governor announced his plans to establish the panel amid controversy that he pressured unemployment hearing officers, who decide unemployment benefit appeals, to decide more cases in favor of business at a March 21 lunch at the Blaine House.

The Maine Employment Lawyers Association is also asking federal labor officials to look into the claims.

The lunch and complaints from hearing officers that the governor is attempting to influence appeals outcomes are believed to be the impetus of a federal audit of Maine’s unemployment system.

Two federal auditors met last week with Laura Boyett, director of the state Bureau of Unemployment Compensation. The auditors represent the federal Labor Department's Employment and Training Administration division.

The LePage administration said the audit is routine.

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