PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - The U.S. Department of Labor is investigating cases in Maine's unemployment system, and Governor Paul LePage says he welcomes it.
The Governor has been the subject of complaints for the past two weeks, reported in several ne3wspapers, after he called a meeting last month with the hearing examiners who decide unemployment compensation disputes between employees and businesses. Some of those state workers have said they felt their jobs were threatened by that meeting.
The Governor says many businesses have complained to him that the unemployment system is biased toward employees and against employers. He says no one was threatened at the meeting. But a lawyer who deals with unemployment cases says some of the Governor's actions violated state or federal laws. He said those include an allegation that the LePage administration told the Department of Labor to do extra reviews of decisions favoring workers, but not those decisions favoring businesses. Attorney David Webbert asked the Federal Department of Labor to investigate, and the USDOL has started an audit of Maine unemployment cases.
It isn't clear if that the federal audit will include any of the actions or statements by the Governor at the meeting with hearing examiners. Governor LePage says he was told on Wednesday by the U.S. Secretary of Labor that the scope of the audit will only cover actual cases.
The whole dispute has upset some members of the Maine Legislature, and the Democratic leader of the state Senate says the Legislature may need to have its own investigation. Sen. Seth Goodall says that could involve their watchdog agency, called OPEGA, or the Attorney general. And the Governor says he's going to appoint a special commission to review the whole unemployment system. His press office says that commission to should be names very soon, and will be bipartisan.