Webbert says lawsuit most effective way to protect the people of a State from a Governor’s abuses of power

Read the full story here in the Portland Press Herald.

Gov. Paul LePage doesn’t understand how the state government’s system of check and balances works and is wrong to assert that his election to office gives him the right to use public money to “punish his political opponents,” according to a legal brief filed this week by an attorney for House Speaker Mark Eves.

The 24-page brief, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court by attorney David Webbert, was an objection to LePage’s motion in January to have a lawsuit brought against him by Eves dismissed.

The lawsuit accuses LePage of using taxpayer money and the power of his office to prevent Eves’ hiring as president of Good Will-Hinckley, a nonprofit in Fairfield that operates a charter school partly funded by the state.

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The brief filed by Webbert Tuesday said that LePage “misunderstands the applicable law and the role of the judiciary” when he contends that a suit filed by a political opponent does not belong in court. The brief mentions several civil rights suits stemming from political disputes, including one that went to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“A federal civil rights lawsuit like this one is well established in our legal system as one of the most effective ways to protect the people of a State from a Governor’s abuses of power,” Webbert wrote.

Webbert concluded the brief by asking the court to deny LePage’s motion to dismiss. Webbert said that a written reply to his objection is due in court March 1.

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Webbert says, “This case transcends Mark Eves. It really is an important case for all of Maine.”

Read the full story here at the Portland Press Herald.

House Speaker Mark Eves filed an amended lawsuit Friday against Gov. Paul LePage, further accusing the chief executive of violating his rights in the Good Will-Hinckley school hiring controversy.

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Eves’ attorney, David Webbert, said he expects from his prior discussion with LePage’s attorney in the case, Patrick Strawbridge, that the governor will first file a motion to dismiss one or both counts in the lawsuit before answering the individual factual claims in the complaint.

“It is a little different from the first one because we know the facts better,” Webbert said. “It is pretty much the governor’s own words. The case pretty much stands on his own statements.”

Webbert said that if LePage files a motion or motions to dismiss, that almost guarantees the case couldn’t reach trial before 2017.

“If he wants it to go quickly, he would file an answer. If he wants it done in 2016, that’s what he would do. The federal courts in Maine move pretty quickly,” Webbert said.

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Webbert said he took extra lengths in the amended complaint to explain why he feels federal court is the proper venue to settle Eves’ dispute with the governor. The case involves different branches of government and would affect more people than other civil disputes involving just a few individuals, he said.

“This case transcends Mark Eves. It really is an important case for all of Maine,” Webbert said.

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Eves and Webbert Press Conference

Eves photo from Bangor Daily News

House Speaker Mark Eves addresses reporters during a press conference July 30 outside the U.S. District Court in Portland. Eves and David Webbert (right), his attorney, filed a lawsuit against Gov. Paul LePage accusing him of blackmailing Good Will-Hinckley. Laura Eves (left), Mark Eves’ wife, looks on.

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LePage can use up to $400,000 for private attorney to fight Eves lawsuit.

Read the full article here at the Bangor Daily News.

Webbert says, “We now have direct confirmation that the Governor engaged in blackmail . . .”

Read the entire article here at the Portland Press Herald.

Moore’s description of a chain reaction that would have led to the school’s insolvency was pounced upon by David Webbert, the attorney who is representing Eves in his lawsuit against the governor.

“In short, we now have direct confirmation that the governor engaged in blackmail to get Speaker Eves fired without cause,” Webbert said in an email statement he issued during the committee’s hearing.

 

 

Webbert says Gov. LePage also violated Maine law when he blackmailed Good Will-Hinckley

Read the full article at the Portland Press Herald here.

Added to an earlier federal court filing, the new claim illustrates that LePage ‘also violated Maine law when he blackmailed Good Will-Hinckley to coerce it into firing Speaker Eves,’ says Eves’ attorney.

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Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves has filed an additional court claim against Gov. Paul LePage, alleging that he broke state law when he threatened to withhold funds from a Fairfield school unless it ended its employment contract with Eves.

The new claim, which will be added to a civil lawsuit already filed in federal court, alleges that LePage violated Maine’s tort claim law by intimidating Good Will-Hinckley, threatening to withhold $530,000 in annual state funding for the private school unless it terminated its contract to hire Eves. The school eventually rescinded a job offer to make Eves its next president.

He added, “This state law claim adds to the speaker’s case against the governor and will be considered as part of the lawsuit in federal court.”

Webbert said that the governor has 120 days to reply to the claim. Attorney General Janet Mills and Cynthia Montgomery, the governor’s legal counsel, were notified of the claim, a requirement under Maine law.

Eves filed the civil lawsuit against LePage in federal court on July 30.

“Acting out of personal rage, vindictiveness and partisan malice, Gov. Paul LePage blackmailed a private school that serves at-risk children into firing its president, the Speaker of Maine’s House of Representatives,” the complaint alleges.

Eves, who has written newspaper columns to explain his decision, has characterized the lawsuit as his standing up to LePage on behalf of Maine citizens, not just for personal reasons.

“This is not about the money,” Eves said on July 30. “This is about righting a wrong. It’s about holding the governor accountable for blackmailing Good Will-Hinckley, a school that’s provided a safe haven for at-risk kids for over 125 years. That’s what this is about. It’s also about making sure that this does not happen to any other family, any other private organization, any other citizen. Accountability has to happen or (the behavior) will continue.”

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Portland, had been anticipated since the board of directors at Good Will-Hinckley voted to rescind its offer to pay Eves $150,000 a year in salary and benefits to become the organization’s next president. The Democrat said the board told him before his contract was terminated that LePage, a Republican, threatened to eliminate the state’s annual state funding for the school, thereby jeopardizing over $2 million in private donations that the school needed to remain open, unless it removed him from the job. The complaint says the governor’s threat left the board of Good Will-Hinckley with no choice but to rescind its job offer to Eves.

LePage has admitted to threatening to pull the school’s funding, saying that Eves was unqualified for the post. During a July 30 interview on WGAN radio, LePage said Eves was “a plant, from the unions, to destroy charter schools” and compared his intervention in the Democrat’s hiring to breaking up a domestic violence dispute.