Time again to consider Governor’s impeachment

Dear Editor:

Again, the Governor’s behavior has elicited calls for his removal from office. Beyond simply resigning, Maine’s Constitution provides three mechanisms to remove (temporarily or permanently) the Governor: 1) for long-term (more than six months) mental or physical disability, the Legislature, by a two-thirds vote of all legislators in joint convention, can ask Maine’s Supreme Court, by majority vote, to remove him; 2) for temporary mental or physical disability, the Secretary of State can ask the Supreme Court, by majority vote, to remove him, until the court decides to reinstate him; and 3) Maine’s House of Representatives can impeach the Governor (or any other publicly elected official in Maine, including a legislator), followed by a trial in the Senate, which can result in permanent removal from office and a prohibition of ever serving in Maine’s government again. Additionally, the Governor can remove himself, temporarily, from office for mental or physical disability by informing the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. In that case, it is the Governor who decides when to be reinstated.

During the last legislative session, there was considerable confusion over what constitutes an impeachable offense and the leadership of both parties worked hard to prevent an impeachment vote. Maine’s Constitution says that impeachment is for “misdemeanor in office” where misdemeanor means ill-behavior (not the legal meaning denoting a severity of crime). One definition of impeachable offense is that which results in a majority of House members voting to impeach. But for guidance on the matter, I note that the only other clause in Maine’s Constitution that references all elected officials concerns the oath of office. Therefore I conclude that impeachment is the remedy for an elected official’s breach of his or her oath (or affirmation) that he or she will “support the Constitution of the United States and of this State” and will “faithfully discharge … duties … according to the Constitution and laws of the State.”

Clearly, it is the responsibility of elected officials, not the citizenry, to protect the form of government defined by its foundational documents. It is the responsibility of the electorate to elect those who are willing and able to accept the responsibilities required by the oath of office.

Though last year I was the only legislator in Hancock County to vote against stopping consideration of a House Order that would have established a House Committee to make recommendations to the House on matters of impeachment, it is time again for my legislative colleagues to reconsider impeachment as a remedy for our Governor’s ill-behavior.

Ralph Chapman


Ralph Chapman is the state representative for House District 133: Blue Hill, Brooklin, Brooksville, Castine, Sedgwick and Surry.

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