Maine: Former Governor LePage says he wasn’t aware of high rate paid on Trump hotel

After a newspaper article reveals former Republican Maine Governor Paul LePage exceeded expense limits on taxpayer-funded trips to Washington, LePage is firing back.

On Monday morning the state’s former chief executive discussed the Maine Sunday Telegram story that showed the governor spent $170,000 on travel outside Maine during the final few years of his time in office.

$22,000 of that state taxpayer money was spent at a Washington, D.C. hotel owned by the family of President Donald Trump.

But in a Monday radio interview on WGAN, the ex-governor brought the newspaper article up blasting the Press Herald/Sunday Telegram saying it’s biased, left-leaning and calling its coverage of him “disgusting.”

“The newspapers are in the back pocket of the left,” he said. “It is just disgusting how biased they are. ”

However,  LePage admitted many of the rooms booked for trips to Washington were reserved by his staff and it is entirely possible they spent more than he realized like spending $1,100 a night during a June 2017 stay, as the newspaper reported.

“If we paid $1,100 for a hotel room for one night, shame on me,” he said.  “I wasn’t aware of it and shame on me because I should’ve been on top of it.”

Republican political analyst, Phil Harriman, says LePage does have to answer for his spending but if he does, then the high costs are a non-issue.

“Did he spend the taxpayer’s money wisely? Did he travel for legitimate government business? If the answer is yes, then I don’t think there’s much to talk about,” said Harriman.

Harriman also thinks that if the former governor will maintain a level of trust with his supporters and Maine republicans if he shows there is evidence he needed to exceed limits on travel spending in order to further the state’s interest in Washington.

Even though LePage encouraged frugality, Harriman says there is a necessary “dichotomy” for all government officials who must do business in costly Washington, D.C.

That said, Harriman says taxpayers deserve to know if “the facts are there to back up his comments.”

As for LePage’s criticism of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram’s reporting as unfair, Kevin Miller, one of the journalists who put the article about LePage’s expense together tweeted Monday that, “if Democratic @GovJanetMills ever spends $1,100/night at President Trump’s DC hotel (or even $362/night) while meeting with the president or his Cabinet, that’s certainly news. And we will report it.”

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Governor LePage pardons former GOP lawmaker in old drug case

Former state rep Pierce had requested clemency and he was notified by LePage’s office that the governor signed the pardon last week.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine Republican Gov. Paul LePage has pardoned a former GOP state lawmaker for a 35-year-old felony-level drug trafficking conviction.

Maine Public reports the pardon of former state Rep. Jeffrey Pierce, of Dresden, could affect an ongoing investigation into whether Pierce illegally hunted with firearms.

Pierce had requested clemency and he was notified by LePage’s office that the governor signed the pardon last week.

Pierce says he had hunted with firearms since his conviction, but he didn’t realize he was violating state and federal laws, which prohibit anyone convicted of a felony from possessing firearms.

State Rep. Jeffrey Pierce. (Abigail Adams photo)Pierce was convicted in 1983 after selling cocaine and marijuana to an undercover police officer.

Pierce was among a core group of Republicans loyal to LePage, who leaves office Wednesday, during his two terms as governor.

Maine Governor Paul LePage: You’ll ‘miss me’ when I’m gone

Governor Paul LePage says again that if he doesn’t like what Governor-elect Janet Mills does, he’ll run again in 2022

Maine’s governor says people are going to miss him when he’s gone, and he’s repeating his vow to run for a third term if he doesn’t like the actions taken by his successor.

Republican Paul LePage tells the Morning Sentinel he and his wife plan to spend the winter at their Florida home and return to Maine in the spring. He says they hope to buy a home in Aroostook County to be closer to grandchildren in New Brunswick.

He said previously he’s going reside in Florida where taxes are lower but said he’d “be a Maine resident when it’s time to run” if he seeks another term.

A spokesman for Mills declined to address LePage’s comments about the 2022 race, saying “the Governor-elect is focused on governing.”

Maine: Governor LePage signs CD2 results, calls it ‘stolen election’

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Governor LePage signed the election results, including the words ‘stolen election’ on the signature line, a jab at the ranked-choice voting process.

In a tweet, Gov. LePage showed a picture of the signed results, and the words “stolen election” on the signature line next to his initials.

LePage wrote, “Ranked Choice Voting didn’t result in a true majority as promised-simply a plurality measured differently. It didn’t keep big money out of politics & didn’t result in a more civil election.”

View image on Twitter

Paul R. LePage

@Governor_LePage

I’ve signed off on the CD2 election result as it’s no longer in federal court. Ranked Choice Voting didn’t result in a true majority as promised-simply a plurality measured differently. It didn’t keep big money out of politics & didn’t result in a more civil election

Congressman-elect Jared Golden responded on Twitter, writing “Not only are the Governor’s comments wrong, this is yet another attempt by the Maine GOP to undermine the will of Mainers, who twice voted to approve RCV. Maine people are tired of this kind of poor leadership — which is why they voted for sweeping change in November.”

Jared Golden

@golden4congress

Not only are the Governor’s comments wrong, this is yet another attempt by the Maine GOP to undermine the will of Mainers, who twice voted to approve RCV. Maine people are tired of this kind of poor leadership — which is why they voted for sweeping change in November.

Paul R. LePage

@Governor_LePage

I’ve signed off on the CD2 election result as it’s no longer in federal court. Ranked Choice Voting didn’t result in a true majority as promised-simply a plurality measured differently. It didn’t keep big money out of politics & didn’t result in a more civil election #mepolitics

View image on Twitter

Golden defeated incumbent Congressman Bruce Poliquin in the ranked-choice voting election. It was the first federal race ever decided by the system that Maine voters approved.

Poliquin announced on Christmas Eve that he would no longer pursue any legal action, after a federal judge denied two previous motions.

BREAKING statement from Congressman Poliquin:

Since Election Day, I’ve been stopped in grocery stores, airports and on the street, and have been contacted by phone, email, and social media from hundreds and hundreds of Maine voters with grave concern over the confusing and unfair rank voting process, pushed onto the people of Maine by out-of-state special interests. I agree with 2nd Congressional District voters who twice rejected this confusing and complicated rank voting pr

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Maine Governor Paul LePage: “97 percent” of the State’s drug dealers are Black and Hispanic!

Gov. Paul LePage repeated his claim Thursday afternoon on Maine Public. A caller to the show criticized the governor for blaming out-of-state minorities for fueling the state’s drug crisis

Maine’s departing Republican governor is doubling down on his discredited claim that out-of-state black and Hispanic drug dealers are responsible for an overwhelming percentage of drug trafficking in the state.

Gov. Paul LePage repeated his claim Thursday afternoon on Maine Public. A caller to the show criticized the governor for blaming out-of-state minorities for fueling the state’s drug crisis, and LePage responded that “it’s true.”

LePage proceeded to say “97 percent” of drug dealers in the state were minorities. He first made a similar claim in summer of 2016, saying it was backed up by news clippings he collected. An Associated Press analysis concluded the statement was wrong.

LePage is moving to Florida after he leaves office. His replacement, Democratic Attorney General Janet Mills, will be sworn in next month.

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Maine basketball team and Hollywood Casino spend Thanksgiving at homeless shelter

The University of Maine men’s basketball team and the staff of the Hollywood Casino prepared and served Thanksgiving dinner to members of the community at the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter.

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BANGOR (NEWS CENTER Maine) — The holidays are a time to spend with family, but also a time to give back to those less fortunate than you.

This is the fourth year the staff of the Hollywood Casino has prepared Thanksgiving dinner at the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter, and the third year one of the two University of Maine basketball teams has served the meals.

“The Hollywood Casino, really great neighbors to have.” Boyd Kronholm, executive director of the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter, said. “They not only support us on Thanksgiving but they have hired and given employment to some of our overnight guests.”

The shelter serves three meals on Thanksgiving and expects to serve about 100 hungry members of the community.

“43 of those people will probably be people who stay here but everyday at noon we open up our doors for a soup kitchen for anyone who’s hungry in the community. So those are people who may have been through our shelter at one point but are housed, but may not know where their next meal is coming from.” Kronholm said.

Junior guard on the Maine Black Bears, Isaiah White, says he’s not new to giving back to the community he lives in.

“When I’m back home, back in high school our church used to do things like this around the holidays too.” He said.

While this isn’t the community White grew up in, he says he enjoys giving back to a place that welcomed him with open arms.

“Maine, you know, the city of Bangor, Orono, the school, has fully embraced the basketball team.” He said.

The Thinning Blue Line: A police shortage in Maine could soon get a lot worse (or is that better?)

Many departments have multiple positions open, but supervisors are struggling to find qualified candidates to fill them. So what happens when a large number of veteran officers retire?

Maine is no exception.

Many police departments, statewide, have multiple positions open, but supervisors are struggling to find qualified candidates to fill them.

Even more troubling, what those numbers look like moving forward, when a large number of veteran officers can retire.

Helping people. As cliche as it might sound it’s the No. 1 reason many police officers put on the badge.

A former high school English teacher, Tyler Plourde is now a trooper with the Maine State Police. “I wanted to have an impact on my community being able to help people”.

Officer Colin Gordan is a Falmouth police officer. “People ultimately get into to police work to help people, preserve order. As corny and cheesy as that sounds it’s true.”

What’s also true is there are fewer and fewer people willing to do the job. Many departments in Maine are down two, five, even 13 police officers.

Lt. John Kilbride, a 20-year veteran of the Falmouth Police Department, says that’s an incredible strain for a department. He says, “it’s nerve-wracking, you can’t just pluck a police officer off a tree.”

There are a lot of reasons for the police shortage.

  • Low pay, when compared to the high risks of the job
  • The negative attitude some people have toward police
  • A difficult and lengthy hiring process
  • Young people entering the workforce who are making a balance between work and life a top priority (something that any cop will tell you is not easy)

Maine State Police Lt. David Tripp says while his agency has been successful shoring up their vacancy rate, he admits being down troopers can cause a strain. “We are pushing some would say beyond our capacity with the services we’re providing.”

It’s a problem that could get a lot worse.

The Maine State Police currently has 341 officers. In two years, 15 percent will be eligible to retire. That’s 51 state troopers.

There are 161 Portland police officers. Over the course of the next five years, more than 25 percent are or will be eligible for retirement. That’s more than 44 officers.

The Maine Warden Service is facing similar issues. There are 125 game wardens. Today, 23 percent can retire. That’s more than 40.

Even smaller agencies are not immune.

The South Portland Police Department has 55 officers. Right now, 26 percent can retire. That’s 14 police officers.

Lt. Tripp says, “so when we look at that number that could be fairly high, 51 potentially retiring, that does cause us some concern”.

Those numbers are forcing departments to be more flexible and take a closer look at how they’re recruiting. Some are using social media and incentives or signing bonuses to attract candidates.

But finding interested candidates isn’t the only challenge, so is finding qualified ones.

Lt. John Kilbride says, “I will go without before I put forth someone I’m not comfortable with.”

When a department is down officers, it’s forced to play defense—prioritizing calls as well as cases.

That can not only impact communities, it can place a bigger burden on the rank and file.

“You start putting stressors on really good people and they start evaluating whether they want to stick around, it’s a sinking ship. You’ve hit the iceberg,” says Lt. Kilbride.

NEWS CENTER Maine spoke with officers from agencies across the state, who did not want to go on camera. They told us “a lot of times it’s like swimming upstream” … “investigations don’t get the attention they deserve, because they’re not enough officers” … “everyone loves to take video of you hoping you screw up” and “a lot of people don’t understand our training or why we do the things we do.”

Joe Loughlin, former deputy chief of the Portland Police Department and a national law enforcement consultant, says the stress on law enforcement officers today is enormous.

Loughlin says, “for years we’ve been saying we can do less with more, well that doesn’t work anymore, you need people”.

“These are tough days for this profession and tough days for the citizens because in the end, it’s the good citizens who suffer,” says Loughlin.

Loughlin, as well as those still in law enforcement, says they’re confident that, while it won’t happen right away, this shortage will pass and ultimately enough people will answer the call to protect and serve.

Lt. Tripp says, “I’ve had citizens say to me why would you do this job? Why would you want to do a job with everything going on today? Police officers being shot at or shot. Why would you do it? For me personally, if it’s not us, then who is it?”