Maine’s commissioner of marine resources becomes third LePage cabinet member to resign

Sean Mahoney | @SeanCLF

Norm Olsen, Maine's now-former commissioner of marine resources.

As if the life and times in Augusta haven’t already been strange enough, the third of Governor Paul LePage’s cabinet members tendered his resignation to the Governor Wednesday. What makes the departure of Norm Olsen, the now-former commissioner of the Department of Marine Resources, more notable is the manner in which he left. While Philip Congdon was forced to resign as commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development after disparaging Mainers from Washington and Aroostook counties and Darryl Brown was forced to resign as commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection because of Maine’s conflicts of interest law, Olsen’s resignation caught many off guard- but not for long. Although his formal resignation was apparently conveyed to the Governor in a one-line, handwritten note delivered after a meeting with the Governor, Olsen made his reasons abundantly clear in a bomb dropped, er, document released yesterday. The document provides a view on how Maine’s chief executive conducts business by a man described at this past year’s Fishermen’s Forum as the man “in charge” of Maine’s marine affairs. The document also provides a few other nuggets, including the Governor’s determination that there would be:

  • No further collaboration with the City of Portland to develop measures to return our groundfish boats to Maine, despite the work already done to secure the support of visiting Commerce Department officials. Portland was against him, LePage said, and we will not work with that city. Rather than work with Portland, he said, we’ll build a new port somewhere.
  • No further collaboration with the Director of the federal National Marine Fisheries Service to secure emergency federal assistance that could help return the fleet to Maine.
  • No consideration of measures to properly and prudently manage the heavily overcapitalized shrimp fishery so that Maine could gain the most value-added from this resource.
  • No collaboration with the federal government to jointly manage resources in federal waters. Instead, he instructed his deputy legal counsel to find a way for Maine to supersede federal authority outside the three-mile limit.

The LePage administration is sure to rebut Mr. Olsen’s statement. But regardless of how this saga ends, it is, to say the least, another interesting chapter in the story of the LePage administration.  There is undoubtedly more to come.

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