AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Speaker of the House Mark Eves has lost a legal battle in his lawsuit against Governor Paul LePage, who, Eves claims, abused his power and violated Eves' civil rights when he pressured a Maine school to fire Eves from his new job.
A federal judge ruled Tuesday that LePage's actions did not violate Maine's constitution
A quick reminder of how we got here:
On May 22nd of last year, then acting education commissioner Tom Desjardin had lunch with Goodwill-Hinckley board chairman Jack Moore where Moore told him that the school might be offering Eves the job as school president. Desjardin reportedly told Moore that Eves was a poor choice.
In the days that followed, Gov. LePage had several phone conversations with Moore, and on June 6 sent him a note saying he would have trouble supporting the school if Eves got the job. In the note, the governor called Eves a "hack."
Three days later, Goodwill-Hinckley announced that Eves would be the school's next president.
That same afternoon, the LePage administration took steps to stop the first quarterly payment of an annual $535,000 in state funding to the school.
That, in turn, would have meant the school would not get an additional $2 million in grants from the Alfond Foundation. So, the school fired Eves before he even started.
Eves' attorney says this suit was going to appeals court no matter what the judge decided. And he tells NEWS CENTER he's confident his argument will hold up there—because, he says, it's right.
In his ruling, the judge called LePage and Eves' allegations a "war of words" before throwing out the lawsuit.
In the court of appeals, it all starts from scratch," Eves' attorney said. "We're really optimistic that that's going to go well."
Speaker Eves' attorney is standing by the accusations: that Governor LePage violated Eves' freedom of political affiliation, free speech and freedom of association when he threatened to withhold $1 million from the Goodwill Hinkley School if it hired Eves.
Last month in federal court, LePage's attorney argued the suit should be dismissed, because he was making a political statement protected by law.
Ultimately, the judge sided with LePage.
The governor's attorney released a statement saying he was pleased with the ruling, adding, "we remain confident that this case is without merit, and will continue to defend it vigorously should the Speaker decide to appeal."
Eves' attorney says this isn't the end.
"We're not going to stop pursuing this case because it's such an important principle that's going to be important for the future of Maine to get right," he said. "We don't want future governors thinking that this is the way things are supposed to be. This is not the way things are supposed to be."
Eves' attorney has 30 days to file the appeal, which he plans to do. That process could take months—or even more.
"The Boys" sat down with Pat Callaghan on NEWS CENTER Tuesday night.
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