AUGUSTA – Gov. Paul LePage has rejected a request from Gov.-elect Janet Mills that his administration not approve any new contracts with private vendors before she takes office on Jan. 2.

“It is inappropriate to request that ongoing work on behalf of the people of Maine be halted for more than three weeks and sit there until you are inaugurated,” LePage wrote Tuesday in a letter to Mills. “A smooth transition implies that the routine work of state government goes on uninterrupted. Contracting is part of that work.”

Mills, a Democrat, sent a letter Monday to the Republican governor’s commissioners for the departments of Administration and Financial Services and Health and Human Services asking them to put a freeze on signing any new contracts with private vendors. In her letter to acting DHHS Commissioner Bethany Hamm and DAFS Commissioner Alec Porteous, Mills also requested a list of all current contracts as well as a list of contracts set to expire.

“My specific request is that you and your staff not financially obligate the state or make vendor or service changes during the transition period,” Mills wrote.

Mills is likely to replace Hamm and Porteous when she announces who she has selected to fill those cabinet-level positions in the next few days.

In his response to Mills, LePage wrote, “You look to halt all procurement of state government for all agencies for all amounts. If I did this, I would not be transitioning government; I would be abdicating my responsibilities. Acquiescing to your request would place contractors that have routinely provided quality service to the state into chaos, not knowing when the contract might be issued or renewed, and causing potential – and needless – layoffs of their employees.”

LePage did not indicate how many contracts could be affected or how much they were worth to private vendors. But he did use his written message to call Mills’ judgment into question.

“Your request would stop all repairs to state facilities, emergency maintenance and other small contracts that ensure the health and safety of state employees and our clients,” LePage wrote. “I am concerned that your lack of foresight in making this request is an indicator of future rash judgments, but I shall refrain from drawing such a conclusion at this point.”

He also added a postscript when he wished her success, adding that if the state did not succeed under her administration, “I plan on being your opponent in 2022.”

Julie Rabinowitz, a spokeswoman for LePage, said she believed the request by Mills was “unprecedented.”

Mills did not indicate in her letter why she wanted the state to halt contract approvals. Asked for additional details Tuesday, Scott Ogden, a spokesman for Mills, issued a statement saying that the governor-elect “ … looks forward to productive discussions with the current administration about all pending matters that may impact the state and the people of Maine in the years to come.”

He did not indicate whether Mills had concerns about specific contracts.

LePage and Mills have clashed repeatedly during the six years in which she has served as the state’s attorney general, but Tuesday’s friction came in the midst of a transition that had otherwise been relatively uneventful.

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 791-6330 or at:

[email protected]

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