State Rep. John Martin, D-Eagle Lake, told Gov. Paul LePage in a letter last week that LePage’s economic development commissioner had made “outrageous statements” to Aroostook County residents and told them he had “no vision for his department” after months on the job.

Martin’s single-page letter, dated April 25, was followed two days later by Phil Congdon’s resignation as commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development.

On Wednesday, the governor’s office publicly released the letter in response to a Freedom of Access request from MaineToday Media.

Martin, who could not be reached Wednesday night, told LePage in the letter that constituents had said Congdon’s comments included:

“The problem with higher education today dates back to the civil rights movement in the ’60s that allowed blacks to enter colleges. That resulted in the large amount of remedial education required in colleges.”

“People in Aroostook County ought to get the hell off the reservation and create jobs for Aroostook County. You have not done a good job of educating your kids.”

“We need more hydro power — wind power is no good. You should be heating your homes with light bulbs.”

In the letter, Martin asked LePage to summon Congdon to his office and “deal with his outrageous statements.”

Martin concluded by noting that he had supported three of the Republican governor’s nominees and spoken on behalf of one. “My voice has not yet joined those critical of your administration,” he wrote. “Again, I expect that you will immediately resolve this issue.”

Congdon, who says he was forced out as commissioner, said in an interview late Wednesday that he has a copy of Martin’s letter. He denied making the comments that Martin attributed to him.

In a telephone interview from his home in Round Pond, Congdon said he plans a more formal response to Martin’s letter, but he would not elaborate.

“I would like to respond,” he said, “but now is not the time and place to do so.”

Martin has said in prior interviews that he wrote the letter only after people in Aroostook County approached him, saying they were upset and shocked by Congdon’s comments April 1 at Northern Maine Community College in Presque Isle and before the chamber of commerce in Caribou.

Martin said he merely asked for LePage’s office to investigate the matter, not to fire Congdon.

LePage has not discussed Congdon’s resignation in detail, calling it a personnel issue. He told The Associated Press on Friday, “I do not condone or tolerate the appearance of this type of behavior and I will not accept distractions from my jobs-creation agenda.” 

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:
[email protected]