NEWS
05/03/2016 18:06 EDT | Updated 05/04/2017 01:12 EDT

Lawsuit accusing Maine governor of blackmail is dismissed

PORTLAND, Maine — A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit accusing Republican Gov. Paul LePage of using blackmail to force a charter school operator to rescind a job offer to a political opponent in a flap that roiled the Legislature and led to an impeachment effort.

U.S. District Judge George Z. Singal agreed with the governor's attorneys, who said the governor was entitled to immunity for his actions.

An attorney for LePage's opponent in the lawsuit, Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves, vowed to appeal within 30 days to a three-judge panel of the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.

"Mark Eves is determined to hold Governor LePage accountable for his abuses of power that undermine our democracy," attorney David Webbert said.

LePage has said he was victim of a "witch hunt."

Eves accused LePage of overstepping his authority when he used state funding as a threat to force charter school operator Good Will-Hinckley, which serves at-risk young people, to rescind a job offer. Eves' lawsuit had sought unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

But LePage's attorneys contended the governor acted because he felt Eves was unqualified and the governor had immunity when it came to spending and the state budget.

The dispute led to a failed attempt to impeach LePage.

Democratic Attorney General Janet Mills said there was no evidence that LePage committed a crime when he put pressure on Good Will-Hinckley.

An impeachment order, which was viewed as a longshot, failed when the Democrat-controlled House voted to table debate indefinitely.

David Sharp, The Associated Press