AUGUSTA — Two senior members of the LePage administration who were subpoenaed by the Government Oversight Committee will be among nine witnesses at a hearing next Thursday into whether the governor overstepped his authority by intervening in a private school’s decision to hire Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves.

Cynthia Montgomery, the Republican governor’s legal counsel, and Aaron Chadbourne, a senior policy adviser, declined to appear voluntarily as the committee investigated events at Good Will-Hinckley. The school in Fairfield offered Eves the job as president but withdrew the offer after Gov. Paul LePage threatened to withhold $530,000 in state funding.

Montgomery and Chadbourne pointed to a lawsuit that Eves brought against LePage to explain their refusal to appear at a hearing last month. The committee voted 8-4 on Oct. 15 to issue subpoenas that compel them to testify.

Under state law, certain legislative committees have subpoena power to compel witnesses to appear. If a witness refuses, the committee can turn to the state court system to enforce the subpoena, raising the prospect of a contempt charge.

The two LePage staff members and seven other witnesses who received informal invitations to testify have indicated they will appear, said Beth Ashcroft, director of the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability, the legislative agency that is directed by the 12-member oversight committee, which is divided evenly between Democrats and Republicans.

The panel initiated the probe July 1. OPEGA then produced a 25-page report that established a timeline of events and a cast of individuals involved in interactions that culminated in Good Will-Hinckley rescinding its job offer to Eves in June. The individuals who will testify next week include Good Will-Hinckley officials who were pressured by the LePage administration to break the school’s contract with Eves.

Good Will-Hinckley operates educational and other programs for at-risk youths. It also runs the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, one of the state’s first charter schools. LePage has acknowledged that he threatened to withhold state funding if the school hired Eves as its president, saying Eves was not qualified and had repeatedly opposed charter schools in the Legislature.

Rich Abramson, the school’s former interim president, is expected to testify next week, as is Bill Brown, an Eves aide who also serves as board chairman of the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences.

Two lobbyists from Good Will-Hinckley, Sara Vanderwood and Jay Nutting, will also appear. According to the OPEGA report, both had interactions with LePage officials, including Chadbourne, as the administration sought to prevent Eves’ hiring.

Greg Powell, chairman of the board for the Harold Alfond Foundation, will also appear. The foundation provides a $2.75 million grant to Good Will-Hinckley. In June, the foundation notified Good Will-Hinckley that it had “serious concerns” that the school would be unable to fulfill the terms of the grant agreement if the governor pulled $530,000 in state funding to the school. Jack Moore, chairman of the school’s board of directors, told the oversight panel on Oct. 15 that the loss of state funding could touch off a chain of events that would ultimately lead to defaulting on a loan that the school relied on to operate.

Tom Desjardin, the governor’s former acting education commissioner, is also expected to testify. Desjardin told OPEGA investigators that he moved to withhold the school’s first-quarter funding after a June 9 “venting session” involving the governor and members of his Cabinet. The meeting occurred the day that the school announced the hiring of Eves. Suzan Beaudoin, director of the Department of Education finance operations, will also testify.

The upcoming meeting will mark the next chapter in a controversy that has marched on since June. The investigation has spurred calls for the governor’s impeachment. However, the oversight committee has said that it will make no determination of wrongdoing.

LePage has called the inquiry a “witch hunt,” and he has repeatedly moved to pressure state Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, to recuse himself as the committee’s chairman. Recently the governor sought reinforcements in his effort to oust Katz in a letter to Republican legislative leaders that was also sent to members of the Maine Republican Party state committee.

Katz declined, telling the governor that he had mistaken “honest policy disagreement with personal animosity.”

Moore, the school’s chairman, told the committee on Oct. 15 that the board considered Eves qualified for the position.

The governor has described Eves as a “plant” by the state teachers union designed to infiltrate and destroy the charter school.

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