AUGUSTA, Maine — Information contained in emails and texts relating to Maine National Guard Adjutant Gen. James D. Campbell’s controversial plan to transform Maine’s 133rd Engineer Battalion into an infantry unit led to his being fired, a spokeswoman for Gov. Paul LePage said Wednesday.
“There was a mischaracterization” about how plans for a change in the state’s military force were made, Adrienne Bennett, the governor’s press secretary, said after the documents were released by the Maine National Guard through Freedom of Information Act requests from the Bangor Daily News and Portland Press Herald.
Bennett said an inspection of the records by the governor’s office before they were released revealed differences between what Campbell told LePage and what the general wrote to others. She did not offer specific examples of discrepancies.
“I asked my legal staff to look at some information being prepared for you folks, and when I got to see that information, I lost confidence in the command, and I made a change,” LePage told Maine Public Broadcasting Network reporter Mal Leary after Campbell was fired on Tuesday. “This is absolutely a policy matter.”
Campbell told the Bangor Daily News on Wednesday evening he kept the governor informed of his plan to transform Maine’s National Guard in order to make it relevant in a climate of changing military needs and federal budget reductions and now feels like “I’m the fall guy.”
“I didn’t lie. I have kept him informed and I have not done anything without his permission,” Campbell said in a telephone interview.
The 194 pages of documents released to the media include communications among Campbell, Col. Jack Mosher, his chief of staff, other Maine National Guard members, National Guard Bureau members in Arlington, Virginia, and leaders from the New Mexico Guard.
Among the documents are a memorandum Campbell sent to the National Guard Bureau in December 2013 asking for assistance to “re-balance” troops in Maine.
“Our primary ‘zero sum gain’ strategy remains the transition of Maine units including the 133m Engineer Battalion as bill payers to reconstitute the historic 1st Battalion, 103rd Infantry Regiment, formerly the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment,” the document states, meaning the 133rd would be traded financially for an infantry unit.
Campbell said he issued the memo after the federal government asked for comment as part of the budget process, which he said started years before. The foundation for the Army’s drawdown and restructuring was laid in early 2011, and a year later, in January 2012, the administration of each state was provided additional details on proposed force structure reductions, according to a Congressional Research Service report released in late February 2014.
Campbell said the first problem between him and LePage surfaced when Mosher made presentations to congressional leaders in Washington in 2014, which upset LePage because he felt he was not kept informed.
“He flew off the handle,” Campbell said.
Campbell said LePage then issued a “gag order” preventing Maine Guard staff from communicating with the media about the rift.
Campbell, who became the state’s adjutant general in 2012, said Wednesday that the plan to add an infantry unit in Maine is nothing new, dating to at least 2008, and with planned decreases in the U.S. Army and Army Guard with the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, it was his job to come up with a plan to keep as many Mainers in uniform as possible.
“I have been upfront all along,” he said.
When LePage called Campbell into his office on Tuesday to fire him, Campbell said he asked him why and the governor told him that he felt misled because he didn’t know that Campbell went to the National Guard Bureau with his plan.
“I told him we sat in a room together last year and I said, ‘I made this proposal for the following reasons,’’’ Campbell said, recalling Tuesday’s conversation. “He said, ‘Well, I’ve made up my mind.’”