FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016
Contact: Kristen Muszynski
Secretary Dunlap responds to request to pursue removal of Gov. LePage
AUGUSTA ? Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap received a formal request from Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos and other legislators on Tuesday, Sept. 6, asking him to invoke the provisions of the Maine Constitution that would begin court proceedings to determine the Governor?s ability to discharge the duties of his office.
Secretary Dunlap responded to the request in his letter below, declining to pursue this course of action. His response was issued Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016:
Dear Representative Evangelos;
I am in receipt of the electronic version of your correspondence to this office received the 6th instant. I sincerely appreciate your inquiry and request, and the opportunity to respond.
The relevant section of Article V, Part First, Section 15, Paragraph 3 reads as follows:
When the Secretary of State shall have reason to believe that the Governor is unable to discharge the duties of that office, the Secretary of State may so certify to the Supreme Judicial Court, declaring the reason for such belief. After notice to the Governor, a hearing before the court and a decision by a majority of the court that the Governor is unable to discharge the duties of the office of Governor, the court shall notify the President of the Senate, or if that office is vacant the Speaker of the House of Representatives, of such inability and that officer shall exercise the functions, powers and duties of the office of Governor until such time as the Secretary of State or the Governor shall certify to the court that the Governor is able to discharge the duties of the office of Governor and the court, after notice to the Governor and a hearing before the court, decides that the Governor is able to discharge the duties of that office and so notifies the officer who is exercising the powers and duties of the office of Governor.
I have discussed this matter in great depth with a number of parties, including legislators, attorneys with the Attorney General?s office, and many private citizens. I have received many calls, letters, and e-mails from members of the public who share your concerns and who have made similar requests.
There is no provision in the Constitution to remove the Governor, per se; although the Constitution is a thorough document, accounting for almost any eventuality, including the provisions you describe in Article V, Part First, Section 15. I must emphasize here that the provisions of Section 15 are, by design, temporary. It must be assumed that any condition that would render the Governor unable to perform his duties would be surmountable.
The Constitution does not detail the conditions to which this provision would apply. It only describes what action may be taken if the Governor is ?unable? to perform the duties of the office. The imaginative can describe a host of situations where a Governor, for a time, could not perform the duties of their office. In any case, Section 15 presumes that the Governor would be able to overcome such a circumstance and return in due course to his sworn duties.? In my examination of not only Section 15 but in the provisions of Articles IV and IX that treat with impeachment and removal by address, the thresholds for removal are exacting.
Over the last fourteen days since the Governor?s outbursts were, at his invitation, made public, many people have entreated me as you have. ?Remove the Governor, whatever it takes,? is a common refrain.
I take my own oath of office seriously, and consider the honor of holding the office of Secretary of State to be a sacred duty, not a political job. I have driven myself to exhaustion contemplating these questions, and if the manifest evidence before me were an explication of the Governor?s inability to perform his duties, I would suffer any danger to leap into the breach, even if I stood alone and failed, to safeguard the future of Maine.
I lack that manifest evidence.
The Constitution entrusts the Secretary of State to certify and declare the reasons for the belief that the Governor is unable to perform the duties of the office of Governor to the Supreme Court. The Court does not accept as an article of faith that the certification is enough; it conducts a hearing, examining the reason for the certification and then voting as a body on whether to install one of the surrogates as described in the Constitution. When the anticipated certification that the Governor is able to bend once again to the tasks of office is rendered, the Court repeats the process and restores the Governor to the offices and duties of the Executive.
As you note, the Governor?s public deliverance of obscenity is just the latest in a six-year string of what I and many others condemn as defamations to the hallowed office of Governor. While his latest series of statements plows yet new ground, nothing he has done is really surprising or out of character when contemplated against his prior trespasses on the public discourse. That his comments cause discontent and even outrage is not new, and while many feel the coarseness of his rhetoric does nothing to elevate the office, those statements in and of themselves do not indicate an inability to perform the functions of the office of Governor.
I should also emphasize that any invocation of Section 15 in general and Paragraph 3 in particular would set new precedent, and the author of such an action should well contemplate what the unanticipated effect of that would be if uninformed or not in sincere earnest.
It is my belief that the actions of the Governor, while reprehensible, do not indicate that he is unable to perform the duties of the office. If any evidence of such inability comes to my attention in the future, you may be assured I will not require correspondence in order to act on behalf of the people of Maine.
I hope this finds you well, and please remember me to be
Yours, very humbly,
Matthew G. Dunlap
Secretary of State
cc: The Hon. David Miramant
The Hon. Kimberley Monaghan
The Hon. Janice Cooper
The Hon. Ben Chipman
The Hon. Roberta Beavers
The Hon. Deane Rykerson
The Hon. James Davitt
The Hon. Adam Goode
The Hon. Pinny Beebe-Center
The Hon. Heidi Brooks????