Bill Nemitz: Ringmaster over his head under Big Top

“Governor Announces Staff Changes,” proclaimed the headline over the news release from what’s left of Gov. Paul LePage’s communications office.

It should have read, “Welcome to The Greatest Show on Earth.”

Wednesday’s sudden departures of commissioners Darryl Brown from the Department of Environmental Protection and Philip Congdon from the Department of Economic and Community Development confirm what many have long feared since Team LePage rode into Augusta promising to transform Maine state government into something . . . well, different.

They’ve done it: After just under four months, the executive branch is now officially a three-ring circus.

In one ring we have Brown, who was forced to step down after Attorney General William Schneider informed him that those pesky environmentalists were right all along: Conflict-of-interest laws prohibit Brown, who owns a development consulting firm, from presiding over the DEP.

For weeks, Brown insisted that he was not in violation of identical federal and state statutes — which made him ineligible to serve if 10 percent or more of his income in the last two years came from applicants for and holders of federal clean water permits.

He was, as he conceded Wednesday, “obviously” wrong.

Still, that didn’t stop Brown from taking a parting swipe at the Maine statute, which, like the federal law, is intended to create a little space between the regulators and the regulated. He called it “silliness.”

That’s not respect for the law, folks. That’s clown talk.

Click for the rest of the column by Bill Nemitz in the Portland Press Herald.

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