Members named for panel studying flaws in Maine’s unemployment benefits system

Daniel Wathen
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Posted July 11, 2013, at 3:30 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The members of a study commission that Republican Gov. Paul LePage announced in April in response to accusations that he tried to influence the outcome of unemployment benefit appeal cases have been named.

LePage previously appointed Augusta resident Daniel Wathen, a Maine Turnpike Authority board member and former chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, and George Jabar II, a Kennebec County commissioner and lawyer from Waterville, as co-chairmen of the panel.

Wathen and Jabar announced the commission’s other members Thursday. They are David Walck, owner and franchisee of several Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants, including one in Lincolnville; Shawn Anderson, chief operating officer of Cary Medical Center in Caribou; Christine Hastedt, public policy director for Maine Equal Justice Partners; and Kristin Aiello, managing attorney for the Disability Rights Center of Maine.

“We’ve put together a great group of experienced people here,” Wathen said in a release announcing the appointments. “It’s important that we tackle this assignment from the governor with the right group of people.”

LePage announced in April that he was forming the blue ribbon commission after media reports that the governor scolded unemployment hearing officers at a March 21 Blaine House luncheon for finding too many unemployment benefit appeals cases in favor of workers rather than employers.

LePage has denied those allegations, and his labor commissioner, Jeanne Paquette, has said the unemployment benefit appeals system is broken and ought to be fixed. She said she and LePage have fielded complaints from business owners and workers who felt the hearing process was flawed. The commission is an attempt to address complaints from employers and employees.

The commission plans to hold a public hearing “about the consistency and objectivity of the unemployment adjudication process” on Sept. 12 in the Transportation Committee Room, Room 126, at the State House.

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