Commissioner Darryl Brown will be moving from the Department of Environmental Protection to the State Planning Office, according to a Wednesday, April 27, press release from the Governor’s Office.

Brown has accepted the position of director of the State Planning Office, which Gov. Paul LePage has asked Brown to reorganize. The State Planning Office is part of the Executive Department, providing planning assistance, policy development, program management, and technical assistance to Maine’s communities, businesses, and residents.

The move comes following an April 26 letter to Brown issued by the Maine Attorney General’s Office, which cites a potential disqualification under Maine law of Brown as commissioner of the DEP. Also following the AG’s letter, LePage has sent a letter to members of the Board of Environmental Protection requesting all information related to their individual sources of income from 2009 onward.

“Regrettably, this step is required to allow me to meet my constitutional obligations to faithfully and equitably execute the laws,” LePage said in the press release.

In an April 27 press release, Maine Attorney General William J. Schneider addressed questions concerning the potential disqualification of Brown, then-commissioner of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, in light of Brown’s income from Main-land Development Consultants Inc.  

According to Schneider’s press release, Brown’s personal attorney, Clint Boothby, wrote to both the AG’s Office and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on April 22, following Boothby’s private review of documentation relating to Brown’s income during the preceding two years. Boothby’s letter expressed concern about potential damage to Main-land Development’s business interests from the public disclosure of its client list and revenue information, according to the release, and questioned whether such records would become part of the public domain if submitted to the AG’s Office for its review.

In documents included in Schneider’s release, Boothby stated that although “Commissioner Brown’s income is not derived directly from a permit holder … the fact that income from permit holders is received by Main-land may trigger the 10 percent conflict threshold.” Boothby asked if a conflict of interest under Maine law did exist, whether Brown may continue to serve as commissioner.

In the April 26 letter to Brown, Schneider said that documentation related to Brown’s income would become subject to Maine’s Freedom of Access Act if submitted to his office for review, and that such records are presumptively available for public inspection, according to the release.

Schneider also said in the letter that if Brown has a conflict, as suggested by Boothby, Brown would be precluded from serving as commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection under Maine statute. Schneider said in his letter that “if in fact such a conflict exists, it would undermine your legal authority to act on any matter coming before you as commissioner.”

The attorney general concluded that Brown must either produce documentation showing the absence of a conflict or take other action to resolve the matter. “In the absence of new information, it appears you are unqualified to serve as commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection under Maine law,” said Schneider in the letter.

Questions about Brown’s potential disqualification arose shortly after his appointment and confirmation, according to Schneider’s release. Since that time, the AG’s Office has provided legal advice to the state DEP and the Administration concerning the meaning and effect of the governing law.  

The role of the AG’s Office with respect to statutory conflict of interest provisions in Maine law is to represent the public interest by advising state officials and executive departments of their obligations under those laws and to enforce those laws when it is warranted, Schneider’s release said.

According to the the LePage administration’s press release, it intends to submit legislation that, going forward, will allow qualified and experienced people to serve the state. As noted in the attorney general’s letter, while federal law allows potential conflicts to be addressed through recusal and delegation, such flexibility is not allowed by current state law.

“It is unfortunate that Maine law is so inflexible that it can be read to prevent good people from serving,” said LePage in his office’s release. “This is another example of the costs of Maine going beyond federal standards. I have discussed this issue with legislative leaders and am pleased that there is support for legislation to fix this problem.”

Meanwhile, Jim Brooks, director of the Bureau of Air Quality, was named acting commissioner of the DEP, according to the press release from the Governor’s Office.

The governor also announced Wednesday that former Republican U.S. Rep. David Emery has been selected as deputy commissioner for the Department of Administrative and Financial Services.

Also on Wednesday, the LePage administration announced that Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Phil Congdon had resigned. Commissioner Congdon took the post in January.

In addition, LePage announced that he intends to nominate Lt. Gen. Robert Winglass (retired) as commissioner of the Department of Labor.

Winglass retired in 1992 and was elected to the Maine House of Representatives, where he served for four years as a member of the Transportation Committee, and Health and Human Services Committee. He subsequently was employed by the IBM Corporation as the director of the Strategic Business Relationships Team in the software division.

“Gen. Winglass has devoted most of his career to public service with the Marine Corps and as a state representative,” said LePage. “I am looking forward to collaborating with Gen. Winglass to increase economic stability for both job creators and workers in our state.”