Westbrook City Councilor Paul Emery apologized to the public and to Gov. Paul LePage on Wednesday for making inappropriate remarks about the governor during a tax forum this week.

Emery stood during the town hall-style event held by Democratic legislators Tuesday night in Scarborough and said he would not be bothered if LePage went “to see his maker.” He then lamented that assassination was not a political strategy in Maine.

“I screwed up,” Emery said during an interview Wednesday. “It was a joke that went bad and it was tasteless. I want to apologize to the citizens of Westbrook if I’ve embarrassed them in any way.”

His comments Tuesday appeared to stun members of the Scarborough audience, who had come to hear the Democrats promote their alternative to LePage’s tax reform plan. Most of the crowd of about 150 people sat in silence, and some groaned.

Emery later tried to persuade a Portland Press Herald reporter not to publish his comments, at one point grabbing a cellphone that contained a recording of the statements, before giving it back.

His statements also drew criticism from his colleagues in Westbrook, where Emery is known for getting passionate and sometimes making questionable or offensive comments.

He does not intend to step down from the council, saying he will allow the voters of his ward to decide in November if he should continue to represent them.

His remarks came less than a month after another local Democratic firebrand, Joanne Twomey of Biddeford, was ejected from a public forum hosted by LePage to discuss his tax plan after she shouted at the governor and approached the stage.

LePage, a Republican, is known for verbal lashings of Democrats that have included offensive remarks.

Emery is a 73-year-old real estate agent who was first elected five years ago to represent Westbrook’s Ward 3. Before that he was a member of the town’s planning board for four years. He is active in the local Rotary Club, where he helps coordinate a project that brings children from Central American countries to Maine to receive lifesaving heart surgery. He has lived in Westbrook since 1993, has four grown children and 10 grandchildren.

According to two council colleagues, Emery has earned a reputation as a passionate advocate who can make impolitic remarks in the heat of the moment.

“I would say that some of Paul’s statements during the local governing process have certainly raised eyebrows,” said Westbrook Councilor John O’Hara, the council’s lone Republican. “This is the most egregious statement he’s made.”

Asked if he believed Emery’s words were out of character, another councilor, Mike Foley, said “yes and no.”

“I’ve found him to, at times, make remarks that seem to offend people,” Foley said. “I’ve always viewed him as a person who definitely cares about the community, (who) always wanted what’s best for the community, but when there’s issues (that) he’s extremely passionate about, those things happen.”

Emery, for his part, said he called the governor’s office to offer his apology, but the governor was not immediately available. If he cannot speak with LePage personally, Emery intends to write him a letter.

The governor’s office did not respond to a request for a comment Wednesday and did not publicly acknowledge Emery’s apology.

“I love this city, I acted stupid once, but I hope that does not negate my many years, my five years, of service, (during) which I have fought with every breath of my body for the best interests of the city of Westbrook,” Emery said Wednesday.

Emery’s colleagues in city government and on the council were quick to condemn his remarks, as were state Democrats and Republicans.

The strongest criticism came from Cumberland County Republican Committee Chairman Eric Lusk.

“Suggesting that assassination is ever appropriate is entirely unacceptable and he must resign immediately,” Lusk said in a prepared statement. “The people of Westbrook deserve better leaders than Councilor Emery.”

There is no mechanism in Westbrook to remove a city councilor, and the city’s charter has no provision for a recall election.

Another response, from Sen. Andre Cushing, R-Hampden, linked Emery’s words with state Democrats.

“I believe that this councilor’s comments are a byproduct of the inflammatory and often hateful rhetoric coming from many sectors of the Democratic Party at their hosted events,” Cushing said.

Although the forum at which Emery spoke was sponsored by Democrats to highlight their tax plan, both House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, and Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland, denounced Emery after the event.

Westbrook Mayor Colleen Hilton said she is exploring whether she has the power to remove Emery from his position as one of Westbrook’s representatives to the regional METRO board of directors, and plans to do so if she can. Emery also represents the city on the Maine Municipal Association’s legislative policy committee, but it was not clear Wednesday whether Hilton has the power to force his resignation.

“Despite political parties and difference-in-policy conflicts, we strive very hard in our community to work through differences,” she said.

Westbrook Council President Brendan Rielly had a brief conversation with Emery on Wednesday, but he declined to describe what was said. Rielly planned to speak again with Emery, and lamented the lack of options for the council or the city to reprimand Emery, which he said is “unfortunate in a case like this.”

“If the council collectively would be interested in asking him to resign, I think the council could encourage that, but there’s nothing the council can do to formally make that happen,” Rielly said.