PORTLAND, Maine — On Monday night, the governing body of a Westbrook youth center said its board voted to not host a town hall meeting Gov. Paul LePage had announced earlier in the day.
But on Tuesday, the governor’s office came out with its own story: The call to cancel the Wednesday event originally came from LePage, not the My Place Teen Center, an organization that offers after-school programs and meals for at-risk youth.
The conflicting narratives added to the confusion on the day that a LePage radio interview raised the possibility that he was considering resignation after a series of controversies over the past week — an idea that the governor later appeared to dismiss in a tweet.
The town hall event would have taken place in the city represented by the Democratic state lawmaker, Rep. Drew Gattine, who last week received an angry, obscenity-laced voicemail from LePage, which has incited a national firestorm and prompted Republican legislative leaders to call for “corrective action.”
Late Monday night, Executive Director Donna Dwyer confirmed her board had voted to cancel the event, which LePage had announced just that morning.
“We notified [a spokeswoman for the governor] that we do not have the capacity to host the town hall,” Dwyer wrote in an email.
The decision, which was discussed by board members throughout the afternoon and early evening, was a difficult one because the governor has been a vocal supporter of the organization, according to Sue Joyce, a My Place Teen Center board member.
Joyce said she voted for the cancellation of the event out of respect for Gattine and a “duty to act responsibly” and not host a potentially controversial event at the youth center.
“I think some of Maine politics has become toxic unfortunately,” said Joyce. “He is the governor of our state, but this is an embarrassing situation.”
But LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said the governor made the call last evening.
“The town hall cancellation was a governor’s decision, which was made at 6 p.m. [Monday],” Bennett wrote in an email Tuesday afternoon.
“Subsequently, officials from the event venue expressed concern about the location’s capacity and requested it be cancelled,” she added.
The governor’s office website now states that the town hall meeting is canceled, but it did not as of 9:30 p.m. Monday.
The uncommon rebuff of a sitting governor comes while LePage is mired in the controversy that began last Wednesday by his latest racially charged comments about Maine’s drug epidemic.
The governor responded to criticism of his statements by Gattine with a voicemail that contained obscene insults. In an interview Thursday, LePage told reporters he would like to duel the Democrat, who represents Westbrook.
After the governor’s statements, in which he called Gattine a “little son-of-a-bitch, socialist c—ksucker” and said he’d like point his gun “right between” the legislator’s eyes, Westbrook city leaders denounced LePage, calling the tirade “insanity.”
LePage backpedaled from the apparent threat, calling the reference to a duel “simply a metaphor,” and apologized to the “people of Maine” for using the obscenity last Friday, though the governor pointedly did not apologize to Gattine.
The governor claimed that Gattine called him a racist, but the legislator denies the accusation.
However, during a morning radio interview on Tuesday, LePage offered new apologies for the comments he directed at Gattine.
“There’s no excuses. It’s unacceptable,” said LePage. “I apologize to the Maine people and Rep. Gattine’s family.”
State Democratic lawmakers on Monday renewed calls for the governor’s resignation, and Republican Senate President Mike Thibodeau called on him to take “corrective action,” but it is unclear what this entails.