Two LePage Cabinet Members Resign Amid Controversy
Two members of Governor Paul LePage’s cabinet, Economic and Community Development Commissioner Philip Congdon and DEP Commissioner Darryl Brown, resigned Wednesday after each was involved in separate controversies.
Congdon, LePage’s commissioner for the Department of Economic and Community Development, is alleged to have made a racist comment at a meeting in Aroostook County. Though the topic is being discussed in the halls of the statehouse Wednesday, full details have yet to emerge.
Congdon’s nomination was controversial right from the beginning, with opponents faulting him for a thin resume on economic development and a perceived lack of interest in the portfolio. He admitted when asked about economic development in northern Maine during his Senate hearing that he hadn’t yet thought about the subject. Nine Democratic senators eventually voted against his nomination. Congdon’s professional background is in engineering and research and development.
Congdon was a member of the tea party group the Constitutionalists of Maine, which is how he first met the future Governor Paul LePage.
Department of Environmental Protection head Darryl Brown also resigned Wednesday and will move on to a new position as Director of the State Planning office. He had faced a federal probe into whether his appointment as commissioner was illegal under federal and state law due to a conflict of interest based on his work as a developer. The investigation was begun after a complaint to the EPA from the Androscoggin River Alliance.
Brown’s service as commissioner would have been a violation of state statute if at least ten percent of his income came from clients who received or applied for permits under the Clean Water Act in the two years before his appointment. It appears that his involvement with Main-Land Development reached that threshold.
Brown’s lawyer had written to Maine Attorney General William Schneider inquiring about submitting documents on Brown’s business dealings for review, expressing hesitancy to do so if they would then become part of the public record. Schneider responded that the documents would have to be made public, and unless they were submitted and contravened the apparent facts, Brown would have to be found in violation of the law.
“In the absence of new information, it appears you are unqualified to serve as Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection under Maine law,” stated Schneider in a letter to Brown.
The resignations are the latest blow to an administration already rocked by a series of controversial statements and actions by Governor LePage. The executive branch has recently seen its political power waning in the statehouse as Republican legislators have faulted LePage for his actions and attitude and legislative leaders have attempted to take more control of their party’s public and legislative agenda.