Recording reveals Gov. LePage declared State of Emergency to nullify state employee contract

Gov. Paul LePage speaks with reporters outside his office at the State House on Thursday, Oct. 10. – Mario Moretto | BDN

Governor Paul LePage should have learned by now that I have spies everywhere.

That’s right, once again the governor has made a series of explosive statements to a gathering where no media was present and once again I’ve been given an audio tape of his remarks.

Yesterday, LePage spoke to the Greater Portland chapter of the Informed Women’s Network, a conservative organization that has been supportive of his policies.

One of the first things the governor did after taking the floor at the event was to give the assembled all-female crowd a blunt answer to a question that has been puzzling Maine’s media and political class for the past week: why he decided to declare a state of civil emergency during the federal government shutdown, a step no other governor has taken.

“I met with unions a week ago. I said, folks, we’ve gotta worry about the employees. If they shut down they’re gonna be without work, so we have to make a deal, you know lets work on finding a way to get them money as quickly as possible. And this is what they told me: ‘well, we’ll watch how you manage this crisis and we will look at our position when it’s over and if we have the ability to sue, we’ll sue.’ So, I thought about it and we exercised the civil emergency which means that their contract is null and void until after the crisis,” said Govenor LePage at the IWN event.

This remark, which was followed by laughter in the room, directly contradicts LePage’s past statements on the intent behind his declaration.

When WLBZ/WCSH TV reporter Don Carrigan asked LePage on Thursday of last week if the emergency decree was meant as a way to “make some of these employee actions without the complication, my word, of the union contract” the governor said that wasn’t the case.

“It is my goal, solely, to get money into state employee pockets as quickly as possible because we don’t have federal funds,” said LePage in a video uploaded by the Portland Press Herald’s Steve Mistler. “We are doing everything humanly possible to honor the collective bargaining agreement,” LePage said in answer to a follow-up question.

Maine State Employees Association executive director Chris Quint, reached this morning on his way to a meeting with administration representatives on the shutdown plans, was stunned by the admission.

“The Governor’s administration has said publicly that they will honor the contract and we have been meeting with the state HR professionals to come to an agreement that minimizes the impact on state employees who provide essential public services,” said Quint. “The governor is incorrect in his assertion that the contract is null and void and we will continue to work with the administration to reach an agreement that is consistent with the contract.”

Download the audio here. Follow this blog for more revealing statements made by Governor LePage at the event. This could take a while.

Mike Tipping

About Mike Tipping

Mike is Maine's longest-writing political blogger and explores state politics and policy with a focus on analysis and explanation. He works at the Maine People's Alliance and Maine People's Resource Center.