The story of Gov. LePage holding a meeting at his official residence with unemployment hearing officers just keeps going.
This week, the governor asserted that David Webbert, a lawyer who is asking for a federal investigation created the issue out of whole cloth. According to a reporter:
LePage told reporters in Auburn on Tuesday that he didn’t pressure or intimidate the hearing officers during the lunch meeting. He also dismissed Webbert’s claims.
“Attorney Webbert, he’s pulling the wool over Maine people’s eyes,” LePage told the Sun Journal. “I think Webbert made it up.”
LePage also dared Webbert to name witnesses.
Thing is, there is a paper trail.
Right after the meeting, LePage’s allies at a conservative organization released a memo prepared for the governor which the administration leaked to them. This memo outlined a variety of issues, with most focusing on those affecting employers.
But more relevant to the governor’s claim, news outlets requested documents and received over 200 pages.
As part of the request, they received emails from some of the hearings officers.
These demonstrate what the hearing officers thought of the governor asking for a meeting and how they felt after the meeting.
Here’s some of what they said:
One wrote, “In the decades I’ve been doing this work, I’ve never seen anything like it, from either end of the political spectrum. For purposes (of) keeping political pressure/bias out of (a) quasi-judicial process within the Maine Department of Labor, these are dark times.”
Another wrote, “Despite the pressures that are being placed upon us, we still just have to do our jobs, self-insulating from the politics, doing what we think is right and doing that as expeditiously as possible . . . I know that in this climate it is hard not to second guess ourselves.” [Source]
The emails, like all emails, have the names of the senders and recipients. They are not anonymous.
There were not made up by an attorney external to the Department of Labor. Someone in state government, responding to a standard request for documents, turned them over.
If Gov. LePage doesn’t know these emails exist, surely an aide to the governor could let him know.
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