June 20, 2018
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House speaker adds state-level claim to federal lawsuit against LePage

Ben McCanna | BDN
Ben McCanna | BDN
House Speaker Mark Eves (left) looks on as civil rights lawyer David Webbert addresses reporters during a press conference July 30 outside the U.S. District Court on Federal Street. The two filed a lawsuit against Gov. Paul LePage accusing him of blackmailing Good Will-Hinckley.
By Christopher Cousins, BDN Staff
Updated:

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage has 120 days to respond to a new filing in the lawsuit against him by House Speaker Mark Eves that claims LePage violated state as well as federal laws when he forced Eves out of a job at Good Will-Hinckley.

Wednesday’s filing is essentially an addendum to a federal civil lawsuit Eves filed against LePage on July 30, though because of state law, LePage is given 120 days to respond before the state-level claim is added to the federal lawsuit.

David Webbert, an Augusta-based attorney who is representing Eves, said the Notice of Claim was served to the Office of the Governor and Maine Attorney General Janet Mills on Wednesday. It is essentially the first paperwork in the case that has been served directly to the governor’s office, said Webbert.

LePage has said recently that the only information he has received in the case so far have been through media reports.

“What happened here is a classic example of a violation of Maine law,” said Webbert. “The court says that if you have related state law claims, you’re allowed to bring them in the same federal lawsuit.”

LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett dismissed the veracity of the claim Wednesday in a written statement to reporters.

“This is political lawsuit,” Bennett said. “It has no legal merit and is Eves’ and the Democrats’ desperate attempt to accomplish inside a courtroom what they couldn’t at the ballot box.”

The claim accuses LePage of tortious interference by intimidation in Eves’ employment contract with Good Will-Hinckley, which resulted in the organization revoking the contract days after LePage threatened to withhold more than $500,000 in state funding for the school unless Eves was fired. LePage has publicly admitted to making the threat.

Wednesday’s filing seeks monetary damages “in whatever amount a Maine jury determines is fair and just, up to the maximum amount allowed in Maine law.”

The governor has 120 days to either respond to the state-level claim, move for it to be dismissed or deny it, said Webbert. The end of that 120-day window will trigger new deadlines and milestones in the federal lawsuit.

“I expect that there will be a deadline this year for the governor to do an official answer to the federal lawsuit,” said Webbert.

Webbert said that he has not received any correspondence from LePage or his attorneys in the matter but assumes the governor is being represented by his chief legal counsel, Cynthia Montgomery. LePage’s office did not respond to a question from the Bangor Daily News on that point earlier this week.

 


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