Local legislator calls for investigation into LePage's meetings with constitutionalists
Augusta — A local legislator is calling for an investigation into eight meetings Gov. Paul LePage had with constitutionalists last year, citing allegations the group and the governor spoke of treason by the Senate President and Speaker of the House that warranted hanging.
Jeffrey Evangelos, an Independent representative from Friendship, said he waited a few days before contacting Attorney General Janet Mills after the news broke a story about LePage and a meeting with the Maine Constitutional Coalition in 2013, contending that during one meeting, the subject of executing legislative leaders was discussed.
The meetings were first reported by political columnist Mike Tipping, where he gathered information from Freedom of Information Act requests and audio recordings from an Aroostook County radio show.
Evangelos said if the allegations are true, the governor should resign. He spoke with Mills' office, requesting an investigation be done, whether by the AG's Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or an independent investigator.
As of now, there is no investigation, said Mills' office July 3.
"Hot talk of political extremism can set off a radical," Evangelos said. "We can't acquiesce to that kind of language and let it go. We need to determine the facts," he said, adding nobody else has stepped up to speak out about the alleged discussion. "I don't know what it is, he said, citing the November election for the complacency.
Evangelos said during the time LePage was meeting multiple times with the constitutionalist group, he was refusing to meet with the Senate President and the Speaker of the House, because he said he had no time.
Penobscot County resident Philip Merletti, of the Maine Constitutional Coalition, said July 3 it is laughable he could be considered violent. He said he and three other group members met with the governor eight times, for about 13 hours in total, but said there was never talk of execution, or hanging legislators for treason.
He said his coalition is concerned with the weakening of the Constitution, where political figures will gain more power if they are allowed to alter the Constitution.
Merletti also said he is not affiliated with the Sovereign Citizen's movement, which is listed as a domestic terrorist organization by the FBI.
He said his group acted as a liaison between LePage and the public about concerns citizens had, such as private property rights, The United Nations, Common Core Standards in education, and wind energy. Merletti said the meetings began, and continued for about nine months, after the coalition sent LePage, Senate President Justin Alfond, and Speaker of the House Mark Eves a right of petition, in order meet and discuss concerns and redress their grievances.
LePage agreed to meet with the group. Alfond and Eves ignored the request, and thus, violated the Constitution, said Merletti. He said it is treason to violate the Constitution, but reiterated nothing violent or threatening was said during the meetings with LePage.
He said the group filed a complaint with the Attorney General's Office about the violation of the Constitution, but nothing was ever done. Merletti asserts if the Office was to investigate their concerns, it would implicate itself, he said. He said there are criminals in the legislature, but would not speak of who, in case of a legal issue. He said power, control and economics motivate legislators.
Merletti said he often carries two briefcases filled with files.
"I never say anything I can't prove," he said.
Merletti said the group's goal is to protect the Maine Constitution, adding there have been 176 changes to the Constitution, creating more laws and regulations to restrict unalienable rights, including the right to bear arms. He said the state cannot take away a right and attach a fee to it. Talking with legislators, Merletti said many of them have either not read, or do not understand the Constitution.
"How can you take an oath to protect the Constitution if you have not read it or understand it?" he asked.
He said the governor was interested in what they had to say, and if LePage really thought the group's message was off the wall, he would have asked them to leave.
Merletti said LePage has now distanced himself from the group, after they have been labeled as terrorists, which is ridiculous, he said.
" We're constitutionalists, we're the furthest thing from terrorists," said Merletti.
Merletti said LePage, in distancing himself from the group, is losing votes because his voting base follows the Maine Constitutional Coalition. He said he called the governor's office July 3 and asked the staff to tell the governor to stop throwing the group under the bus.
"He's finished right now because people will think he is a coward," Merletti said.
The governor was once their hero because he believes in the Constitution, but as he wants to win reelection, is listening to his advisers who are steering him wrong, Merletti said, also claiming there is a mole in LePage's office.
A message left for LePage's spokesman, Adrienne Bennett, was not immediately returned.
Courier Publications' reporter Juliette Laaka can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 118 or via email at email@example.com.