Legislators use Constitution to move forward with LePage removal

Dems question Gov. LePage competency.

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- A small group of legislators sent a letter questioning the Governor's competency to the Secretary of State yesterday. 

Matt Dunlap confirms he's seen it, but isn't quite sure yet how to proceed, because a request like this has never been made before.
 
After the legislature's vote Tuesday night to not return to a special session, a few Democrats and one Independent found one final option to deal with the backlash of LePage's comments to a Westbrook legislator: a mental competency clause in the Maine Constitution.
 
It reads in part: "When the Secretary of State shall have reason to believe that the Governor is unable to discharge the duties of that office, the Secretary of State may so certify to the Supreme Judicial Court, declaring the reason for such belief."
 
"We've been doing a lot of reading of the Constitution," said Rep. Ben Chipman (D-Portland) on Wednesday. He's one of nine legislators to sign the letter to Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, asking him to take action on Governor LePage's recent behavior.
 
"We don't know what's going on, whether it's a mental health issue, a substance abuse issue, but we'd like to know what's going on."
 
The letter calls for an evaluation of the governor to determine whether he's still fit for office.
 
"This is a continuous stream of irresponsible, political, violent language and a toxic political environment," said Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos (I-Friendship) who penned the letter.
 
Evangelos is also a historian, and says traditionally angry words have led to angry actions. He says, "Sooner or later someone does something and you live with the aftermath."
 
Matt Dunlap did not have an official response to the letter, but says he's already been talking with the Office of the Attorney General and leaders within the Legislature.
 
NEWS CENTER reached out to the Governor's office but did not get a response. 
 
The Maine Republican Party's Chairman, Rick Bennett, released this statement in response to the letter:
 
"These allegations are preposterous and represent an absurd overreach of legislative power. I am stunned by the arrogance that enables these legislators to act as ‘armchair psychologists’. In this letter they deliberately mislead regarding the circumstances surrounding the Governor’s voicemail, claiming libelously that it was made in a “drunken rage” when it was actually made after the Governor left his office midday and was en route to lunch at the Blaine House. The real issue at hand is the inability for these legislators to overcome their personal disappointment with the Governor’s election in 2010, his historic 2014 reelection, and their failed impeachment attempt last year. Their intransigence is damaging their ability to be productive legislators who will work across party lines to address the many real issues facing Maine."
 
Below is the entire letter to the Secretary of State, followed by names of people who had signed by Wednesday morning: 
 

Matthew Dunlap

Secretary of State

 Augusta, Maine

 

Dear Secretary of State Dunlap,

     We the undersigned members of the Maine Legislature hereby formally request that you exercise the mental "competency" clause of the Maine Constitution for the purpose of having the Maine Supreme Court conduct a hearing and evaluate Governor LePage's inability to discharge the duties of Governor of the State of Maine. Specifically, Article 5, Part 1, section 15 of the Maine Constitution states that:

     " When the Secretary of State shall have reason to believe that the Governor is unable  to discharge the duties of that office, the Secretary of State may so certify to the Supreme  Judicial Court, declaring the reason for such belief.  After notice to the Governor, a  hearing before the court and a decision by a majority of the court that the Governor is  unable to discharge the duties of the office of Governor, the court shall notify the President of the Senate, or if that office is vacant the Speaker of the House of  Representatives, of such inability and that officer shall exercise the functions, powers and  duties of the office of Governor until such time as the Secretary of State or the Governor  shall certify to the court that the Governor is able to discharge the duties of the office of Governor and the court, after notice to the Governor and a hearing before the court,  decides that the Governor is able to discharge the duties of that office and so notifies the officer who is exercising the powers and duties of the office of Governor."

 Mr. Secretary, we the undersigned believe there are more than reasonable grounds to invoke this clause of the Maine Constitution to examine mental health issues and possible substance abuse issues that prevent Governor Paul LePage from undertaking his duties as prescribed in his oath of office. Governor LePage has made repeated threats of violence against sitting Legislators and members of the public. He recently was recorded on tape in what can only be described as a drunken rage, denigrating a member of the House of Representatives, followed by threats to reporters that he wanted to point a gun "right between his (Rep. Gattine's) eyes."

   Had this been a single isolated incident, perhaps it could be forgiven.

However, Governor LePage's abuse of power has included a continuous stream of profane and violent statements that run counter to his duty to maintain public safety for all Maine's people. In June, 2015, "LePage told a group of about 200 high school juniors attending Dirigo Boys State in Waterville that he would “like to shoot” cartoonist George Danby. LePage made the comment after Danby’s son, Nick Danby, who was in attendance at the meeting, asked the governor what he thought of the cartoonist." (B. D. News  6/25/15). In that same month, Governor LePage stated that Democratic state lawmakers from Lewiston should be “rounded up and executed in the public square.”

    Mr. Secretary, these are not isolated instances, they are  perverse statements of mental instability, characterized  by pervasive threatening behavior that has  memorialized  Governor LePage's tenure in  office. There are dozens of additional threats of violence that have come from LePage that should also be subject to the Supreme Court's inquiry. For example, Governor LePage has made statements in support of extra judicial killings, promoting the use of the guillotine  to deal with drug dealer offenders and encouraging vigilante

justice: "we have constitutional carry,” he said. “Load up and get rid of the drug dealers." (Portland Press Herald Jan 27, 2016.)

  Our nation's democracy has been deformed by acts of political violence in our lifetime. Both Dr. Martin Luther King and President John F. Kennedy were assassinated in the 1960s after repeated and irresponsible statements supporting violence from their political opponents. In fact in Israel, on March 28, 1996, the Shamgar Commission that investigated the death of Prime Minister Rabin stated in their findings that "verbal violence" combined with "political anger" were the contributing causes of Rabin's assassination."

 While our Legislative leaders have universally condemned Governor LePage's promotion of political violence and irresponsible statements, leaders from both major political parties are hopelessly deadlocked about how to proceed with holding Governor LePage accountable for his irrational behavior. Therefore it is incumbent that we the undersigned Legislators formally request the intervention of the Secretary of State  to empower the  Maine Supreme Court to conduct a full review and hearing before the court to determine whether Paul LePage is mentally fit to serve our State as Governor.

 Respectfully submitted,

 Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos

 Senator David Miramant

 Rep. Kimberly Monaghan

 Rep. Janice Cooper

 Rep. Ben Chipman

 Rep. Roberta Beavers

 Rep. Deane Rykerson

 Rep. James Davitt

 Rep. Adam Goode

 

Copyright 2016 WCSH


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