Two Republican legislative leaders have joined calls for a probe of allegations that a Maine State Police unit illegally collected and maintained personal data about Mainers in 2017 and 2018.
Assistant Senate Minority Leader Jeffrey Timberlake, R-Turner, and Assistant House Minority Leader Trey Stewart, R-Presque Isle, said in a statement that they want an investigation into alleged illegal and improper collection by the Maine Information and Analysis Center.
Their statement follows a Bangor Daily News report of a lawsuit by a state trooper, George Loder, who disclosed the alleged activity as part of a discrimination lawsuit. Former Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, denied any knowledge of any such surveillance, while Gov. Janet Mills, the attorney general at the time, has not discussed the allegations.
“If true, (these allegations) would mean that the state police have been collecting information about Mainers for years without the authorization of the legislative branch,” Timberlake said in the statement. “Such a significant policy decision by the chief executive merits legislative oversight and a check on this power.”
Protesters who opposed the Central Maine Power corridor, employees of a summer camp and people who legally purchased guns were among the groups that were illegally surveilled, according to Loder’s lawsuit, which was filed this month in U.S. District Court.
Among Loder’s allegations are that the state police created a de facto “registry” of gun owners by indefinitely retaining federal background check data relating to legal firearm purchases. Federal law mandates that such information be destroyed within 24 hours. The Maine Legislature passed a 2017 law barring any state agency from creating a list of legal gun owners.
They join Rep. Charlotte Warren, D-Hallowell, a co-chair of the Legislature’s criminal justice committee, and David Trahan, the executive director of the gun-rights Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, in calling for an investigation.
A spokesperson for the office of Attorney General Aaron Frey has said the state would be disputing Loder’s allegations in court.