Opponents of Central Maine Power’s proposed transmission corridor through western Maine want the state to “clear the air” after a state trooper’s whistleblower complaint alleged the Maine State Police spied on protesters.
In a letter sent Thursday to Democratic Gov. Janet Mills and CMP board chair David Flanagan, Sandra Howard, the director of Say NO to NECEC, asked that they share the extent to which corridor opponents were surveilled and what information was collected and shared.
“As you can imagine, this is a scary notion for us. … We are not doing anything that deserves the heavy hand of state police intervention. We just have a position on this matter,” Howard wrote in the letter.
That letter comes following a Bangor Daily News report last week about a whistleblower complaint filed by Trooper George Loder, 50, who claims he was demoted after telling supervisors that the Maine Information and Analysis Center, which is overseen by the chief of the state police, Col. John Cote, was engaged in surveillance of lawful protests and illegally collecting data on Mainers.
The agency allegedly monitored September 2018 protests against CMP’s proposed 145-mile transmission corridor through western Maine to bring Canadian hydropower into the New England grid and later shared that information with the utility, according to the complaint. A CMP executive — Bruce Lewis, the utility’s director of security — sits on the agency’s advisory board, whose directive is to “ensure that civil liberties of citizens are properly protected.”
Howard said last week that she was “extremely troubled by these chilling allegations,” and called for the allegations to be “cleared up quickly and transparently.”
Loder also alleged in the complaint that the agency assembled a de facto searchable “gun registry” in violation of both state and federal laws, collected information related to the social and political activity of staff at a summer camp in Otisfield and circumvented state law through agreements with other states to retain license plate information of vehicles registered in Maine that traveled in and out of the state.
The agency was created in December 2006 under an executive order from then-Gov. John Baldacci, a Democrat.
Since then, calls have mounted for an investigation into the allegations. The House co-chair of the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, Democratic Rep. Charlotte Warren of Hallowell, said earlier this week her panel intends to question Public Safety Commissioner Michael Sauschuck about the matter. Assistant Senate Minority Leader Jeffrey Timberlake, R-Turner, and Assistant House Minority Leader Trey Stewart, R-Presque Isle, on Wednesday joined the growing chorus calling for a legislative investigation, saying the allegations merit “legislative oversight and a check on this power.”
CMP spokesperson Catharine Hartnett told the Portland Press Herald that the utility has “the utmost respect for the civil rights of all Mainers.” A spokesperson for the governor told the newspaper that Mills is willing to cooperate with legislators as they look into the matter, but added that Mills believes it is “appropriate” to allow Loder’s complaint to proceed through the court system in order to “provide for a full airing of the facts.”