World Acadian Congress leader reportedly ousted because LePage threatened to withhold state funds
Reps. Roland “Danny” Martin and Robert Saucier are asking the state’s Government Oversight Committee to launch an investigation into allegations that Gov. Paul LePage threatened to withhold state funds from the World Acadian Congress if its then-president for Maine continued to hold the post.
“I, and many other residents of Aroostook County, know Jason Parent. We know him as an effective civic leader who cares deeply about his community. We know him as a man of integrity,” said Martin, D-Sinclair, House chair of the Legislature’s State and Local Government Committee. “The allegations around Mr. Parent’s departure from the World Acadian Congress are very serious and speak to a possible pattern of abuse of power by the governor. The public needs to know whether Governor LePage forced Mr. Parent out of the position and threatened to misuse state funds because of a perceived political slight.”
On Tuesday, Martin and Saucier sent a letter requesting the probe to the Government Oversight Committee. The bipartisan, bicameral committee, made up of six Republicans and six Democrats, is the state’s watchdog panel. It has the ability to direct the nonpartisan Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability to conduct a fact-finding investigation.
“Jason Parent is someone who has served Aroostook County faithfully for many years,” said Saucier, D-Presque Isle. “The questions raised about his departure from the World Acadian Congress are very serious, and I think the people of our region and our state deserve to know what happened and what the facts are.”
Recent media reports describe LePage as overstepping his executive authority by threatening to withhold $500,000 from the 2014 World Acadian Congress if Parent was not removed from his position as Maine international president and board member for the international governing organization.
Parent, who stepped down in April 2013, has confirmed the media account.
The World Acadian Congress is an international event that takes place every five years. In 2014, it took place in northern Maine, northwestern New Brunswick and Quebec.
LePage reportedly demanded Parent’s removal because then-Congressmen Mike Michaud was presented with a World Acadian Congress license plate, a fundraising and marketing tool, before the governor received his. Michaud at the time was considered a likely challenger to LePage in the 2014 gubernatorial race.
LePage’s alleged actions against Parent may be part of a larger pattern of abuse of power by the governor. OPEGA is in the midst of an investigation into whether LePage improperly interfered with Good Will-Hinckley’s employment of House Speaker Mark Eves and threatened to withhold state funding for the organization’s school for at-risk children.
The governor has also interfered with a Maine Human Rights Commission case and in February withheld funding for the agency after it denied his request for a postponement of the case. The governor successfully forced the resignation of John Fitzsimmons as the president of the Maine Community College System in January by making financial threats to the system.