The Department of Labor is probing allegations that Maine Gov. Paul LePage pressured federally funded unemployment hearing officers to rule in favor of business.
The Portland Press Herald
says a lawyer representing the federal office is interviewing unemployment hearing officers and others who attended a March luncheon with LePage.
LePage and Jennifer Duddy, the governor's appointee to Maine’s Unemployment Compensation Commission, “allegedly scolded … officers and pressured them to make more pro-business rulings in appeals decisions that determine whether workers receive benefits,’’ the newspaper said.
The LePage administration insists the Republican governor did nothing wrong and that the luncheon was held as an educational session between the governor and labor staff, the Herald reported.
But emails obtained by the newspaper through the Freedom of Access Act reveal several attendees felt pressured by the governor to change the way they adjudicate appeals.
One state employee described the meeting as a "group scolding" and called the atmosphere "dark times" for keeping political pressure out of the adjudication process.
LePage has said he had received complaints from "hundreds" of businesses about the appeals process, according to the Herald.
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