AUGUSTA, Marine — In a strident letter delivered Monday, Republican Gov. Paul LePage told Democratic legislative leaders not to “stick their noses” into executive branch business.
The letter was a response to one sent to the governor last week by Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland, and House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, in which the lawmakers urged LePage to immediately terminate a controversial $925,000 contract with the Alexander Group and recoup the nearly $502,000 the state has already paid the consulting firm.
The Alexander Group, which received a no-bid contract in September 2013 to review Maine’s welfare system, has long been the subject of Democratic scorn, but recent evidence that the company plagiarized several other groups in its Maine reports have kicked the controversy into overdrive.
After the plagiarism was revealed by the BDN, LePage on May 23 suspended all further payment to the group. He pledged to investigate the plagiarism and said firm action, including clawback of previous payments and termination of the contract, was possible. Federal investigators have also announced they would review the contract to determine if the federal funds used to pay the consultant were used appropriately.
In his letter Monday, LePage taunted Alfond and Eves.
“I have received your letter about the Alexander Group contract,” he wrote. “After the defeats you suffered during the past legislative session, I understand your need to score political points. But please stay out of the executive branch’s business.”
He also criticized the Legislature for not approving several of his initiatives this year, including welfare reform efforts, a bill to increase funding for Maine’s nursing homes and a bill to hire more judges, prosecutors and drug enforcement agents to carry out a ramped-up “War on Drugs.”
Democrats approved variations of the governor’s bills, but LePage and some Republicans did not support their changes, and none of the initiatives passed into law.
“It is inexplicable that you would rather insert yourselves into the executive branch’s business while doing everything you can to ignore welfare reform, drug crime and elderly Mainers,” he wrote. “Don’t worry yourselves about what the executive branch is doing.”
LePage did not indicate whether he had decided on any punitive action against the Alexander Group, nor did he answer concerns raised by Alfond and Eves in their letter that the contract with the Alexander Group did not contain performance guarantees or other provisions to allow the state to recoup any of the more than $500,000 already paid to the consultant.
“We asked Gov. LePage a straight-forward question about what he was going to do, as chief executive, to recoup the $1 million of taxpayer money that was wasted on a fraudulent report. Why is he avoiding answering a simple question?” said Alfond in a prepared statement.
Adrienne Bennett, LePage’s press secretary, said Monday that LePage had not yet met with Gary Alexander, the company’s founder and chief, and had made no further decision regarding the contract.
Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.