PORTLAND (AP) — A federal judge was scheduled to hear arguments today in a lawsuit in which the Democratic House speaker accuses Republican Gov. Paul LePage of abusing his authority.

Speaker Mark Eves contends LePage violated his rights by pressuring a charter school operator into rescinding a job offer as political payback. He says the governor “blackmailed” Good Will-Hinckley by threatening to withhold state funds if it hired him.

U.S. District Judge George Z. Singal plans to hear arguments on the governor’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

LePage’s attorney contends that the governor acted because he felt Eves was unqualified for the job and that the governor has “absolute immunity” when it comes to spending and the state budget.

The flap led to a failed attempt to impeach LePage.

LePage’s foes contend his interference with Eves’ job offer is part of a pattern of bullying and abuse. The governor, for his part, insists he was the victim of a “witch hunt.”

Attorney General Janet Mills, a Democrat, said there was no evidence that LePage committed a crime when the governor pressured Good Will-Hinckley, an organization that serves at-risk young people, to rescind the job offer.

An impeachment order, which was viewed as a longshot, failed when the Democrat-controlled House voted to table debate indefinitely.


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