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Governor Takes Executive Action to Protect Funds until Legislature Makes Ruling
March 27, 2015
For Immediate Release: Friday, March 27, 2015
Contact: Adrienne Bennett, Press Secretary, 207-287-2531
AUGUSTA – Governor Paul R. LePage on Friday expressed concerns once again regarding the Attorney General’s overreaching of authority in spending nearly $22 million in public money. The concerns stem from litigation in which an agreement of a court settlement provides to the State of Maine $21.5 million – the largest one-time settlement in Maine history.
In a letter to Legislative leadership delivered Friday. Governor LePage asks Senate President Michael Thibodeau and House Speaker Mark Eves, if the Legislature intends to grant the Attorney General the unrestricted, unchecked authority to spend $21.5 million in public dollars in any way she sees fit?
“If so, you need to make that intention clear and public because at this point in time, I do not believe the relevant laws or the Maine Constitution give her such broad and unrestrained discretion,” states Governor LePage.
Meanwhile, Governor LePage has directed the Office of the State Controller to transfer the $21.5 million the State received from the Standard & Poor’s settlement out of the fiduciary account into which the Attorney General had had it deposited and into an Other Special Revenue account as required by Maine State law. The settlement proceeds were received via wire transfer on March 10, 2015.
“I only recently learned, however, that the funds were deposited in this fiduciary fund, which is not subject to appropriation / allotment control in the State’s accounting system,” Governor LePage states in the letter. “In essence, the funds were deposited into an account that could be accessed and expended by the Attorney General without legislative or executive oversight, a situation I consider repugnant to the Constitution and laws of this State. I therefore took the necessary executive action to protect these funds from expenditure until the Legislature makes a decision about whether it will check the Attorney General’s exercise of self-delegated discretion or not,” the letter continues.
Attorney General Mills has claimed she was “just doing what the court ordered [her] to do.” However, Maine law (5 MRS §203-A) requires settlement funds to be placed into an Other Special Revenue account within the Department of Administrative and Financial Services. “By way of my executive action, I am making no comment on whether the purposes for which the A.G. wants to spend the money are appropriate. I am simply maintaining that the decision is yours to make, not hers,” states the Governor in the letter.
In February, Governor LePage announced he is introducing legislation with regard to the Attorney General’s overreaching of authority. The legislation will be in the form of a Governor’s bill clarifying and restricting the scope of the Attorney General’s authority as it pertains to the receipt and spending of public dollars.