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Statement of Attorney for Speaker Mark Eves Regarding the GOC

hearing today
First, Maines people have been well served by the factual
investigation of State Funding for Good Will-Hinckley by the Maine
Legislatures Government Oversight Committee and the Office of Program
Evaluation and Government Accountability.
Most important, the investigation has confirmed the details of how
Governor LePage blackmailed Good Will-Hinckley to fire Speaker Eves
without cause as its new President. Gregory Powell, Chairman of the
Harold Alfond Foundation Board of Trustees, testified under oath that on
June 8, 2015 the Governor told him that he would no longer support GWH
with Speaker Eves as its President. Powell further testified that he quickly
realized that this withdrawal of support included the budgeted state
funding of about $500,000 in each of the next two years.
Similarly, the Governors own policy advisor, Aaron Chadbourne ,
testified under oath that on June 8, 2015, the Governor told Chadbourne
and Acting Education Commission Tom Desjardins that they would not be
giving GWH any more discretionary funding in the budget but only what
was required by law.
Second, Speaker Eves will hold Governor LePage accountable for
his extreme abuse of power by moving ahead with his landmark civil
rights lawsuit. On December 18, Speaker Eves will amend his federal
lawsuit to add (1) some of the key facts found from the GOC/OPEGA
investigation and (2) the state law claim against Gov. LePage for
intentional interference with employment (this is the same claim that was
officially served in August on the Governor and also distributed publicly at
that time; this claim could not be added to the federal lawsuit until
December because of a state law requirement to wait 120 days after filing
the official notice of claim).
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The type of federal civil rights lawsuit filed by Speaker Eves (known
as Section 1983) is well established as one of the most effective ways to
protect the people of a State from a Governors abuses of power.
Over 40 years ago, the families of three Kent State University
students filed a civil rights case seeking money damages under Section
1983 of the federal law, the same post-Civil War-era provision under which
Speaker Eves sues today. They were seeking justice for their sons and
daughters, college students massacred while demonstrating against the
war in Vietnam. The Ohio governor, Jim Rhodes, moved to have the case
thrown out of court. But in a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court
upheld the families suit. The Court explained that the Section 1983 claim is
as an essential safeguard against constitutional protections being
overridden by the fiat of a state Governor.
In similar civil rights cases, the Supreme Court has explained that the
very purpose of Section 1983 was to interpose the federal courts between
the States and the people, as guardians of the people's federal rightsto
protect the people from unconstitutional action under color of state law.
And the Court has ruled over and over that Section 1983 lawsuits for
damages against government executive officials, especially officials of
higher rank, are critical to the enforcement of individual constitutional
rights. Indeed, the greater power of such officials affords a greater
potential for a regime of lawless conduct, the Court explained in 1978.
In situations of abuse, an action for damages against the responsible
official can be an important means of vindicating constitutional
guarantees.
So, Federal court is the right place for a proceeding intended to hold
the governor accountable to the public for a reckless abuse of power.
In his Section 1983 civil rights lawsuit, Speaker Eves is requesting
both monetary and non-monetary measures that will directly benefit the
public. An important part of the monetary relief is a request for punitive
damages in an amount to be determined by a Maine jury and awarded
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only against the Governor personally and not out of public funds. The
purpose of this type of damages is not to protect the person suing but to
protect the general public by deterring the defendant and others from
engaging in civil rights violations in the future.
Speaker Eves is also requesting in his lawsuit that the federal judge
declare that Governor LePage acted in violation of the First Amendment
when he retaliated against Mark Eves and that the Governor be ordered to
stop engaging in such acts of retaliation against anyone.
The testimony and other documents and facts resulting from the
OPEGA and GOC investigation will provide a strong foundation for
Maines federal court and a Maines jury to determine whether Governor
LePage broke the law and should be held personally accountable.