Two Democratic lawmakers from Aroostook County are asking the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee to investigate whether Gov. Paul LePage threatened to withhold state funds in 2013 from the World Acadian Congress unless its president stepped down.

Reps. Roland “Danny” Martin of Sinclair and Robert Saucier of Presque Isle sent a letter Tuesday requesting an investigation by the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability, the watchdog agency that reports to the oversight committee.

Their letter details allegations in a blog post last week by liberal activist Mike Tipping of the Maine People’s Alliance that LePage said he would withhold $500,000 in state funding for the 2014 World Acadian Congress unless then-board president Jason Parent stepped down.

The World Acadian Congress is an international festival celebrating Acadian culture that takes place every five years, most recently in 2014 at locations in northern Maine and eastern Canada.

Parent, a well-known and well-regarded civic leader, did resign in April 2013 but made no mention of any threats at that time.

However, Tipping wrote last week that Parent told him the governor made financial threats to the board, in part because Parent awarded a commemorative license plate to then-U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, a Democrat who at the time was close to announcing he would challenge the Republican governor in the 2014 election.

“This makes the allegation all the more troubling because executive authority and taxpayer money were being used to punish and/or threaten an organization based entirely on electoral concerns,” Martin and Saucier said in their letter to the Government Oversight Committee chairs. “The potential impact on our electoral system and the public’s trust in their government is chilling.”

The governor’s office has flatly denied the accusations and has criticized Tipping’s reports. Others involved with the World Acadian Congress have disputed his account of the events.

“The Maine media and Mark Eves’s cronies in the Legislature are using a manufactured account from a Maine People’s Alliance blogger to fan the flames of their fanatical opposition to the governor,” LePage’s communications director Peter Steele said in an email Tuesday.

LePage already is under investigation by OPEGA over claims that he used his authority to force Good Will-Hinckley, an educational facility in Fairfield, to withdraw a job offer to Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves. As has been alleged in the incident involving Parent, the governor is accused of threatening to withhold funding to Good Will-Hinckley unless its board withdrew its offer to Eves.

That investigation is still pending. Democrats have said LePage has long exhibited a pattern of vindictive behavior, pointing to a Maine Human Rights Commission case in February in which LePage inserted himself, as well as his comments earlier this year that led to the resignation of Maine Community College System President John Fitzsimmons.


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