Federal suit filed against LePage, two others, over mural removal

Posted April 01, 2011, at 5:46 p.m.
Last modified April 02, 2011, at 7:35 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — Maine Gov. Paul LePage’s decision to remove a mural about the state’s labor history from the Department of Labor in Augusta is now the subject of a federal lawsuit.

The suit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court, seeks to confirm the mural’s location, ensure that the mural is adequately preserved, and ultimately to restore the mural to its original location, contending the removal of the mural is a First Amendment issue.

“The removal of the mural is clearly in violation of the First Amendment, protecting freedom of speech; the Maine government removed the mural because it didn’t agree with the message in the mural,” said attorney Jeff Young, according to the release.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of six plaintiffs: Don Berry, a labor representative for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; John Newton, an OSHA employee; Maine artists Robert Shetterly, Natasha Mayers and Joan Braun; and attorney Jonathan Beal.

“The Complaint alleges that government officials, Paul LePage in his capacity as Governor; Joseph Phillips in his capacity as director of the Maine State Museum; and Laura Boyette in her capacity as acting commissioner of the Maine Department of Labor, have acted in violation of the First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendments and have failed in their fiduciary duties,” according to a news release sent by the plaintiffs and their attorneys.

LePage contends the mural depicting labor history overlooks the contributions of entrepreneurs.

His office had no immediate comment on the lawsuit. But spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett says the mural “remains safe and secure, awaiting transfer to a suitable venue for public display.”

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