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LePage Troubled, But Not Convinced, by Allegations in Warden Service Report

PORTLAND, Maine - Gov. Paul LePage says he’s disturbed by allegations raised in a newspaper report that an undercover agent in the Maine Warden Service provided alcohol to targets and illegally shot a deer during a 2014 anti-poaching operation.

At the same time, the governor is dismissive of the paper's suggestion that the warden service may have been playing to the cameras for a reality TV show being filmed in Maine.

LePage says the story by Colin Woodard in the Maine Sunday Telegram is "a whole lot of nothing." But he also says he’s troubled by a number of the newspaper’s findings, including the illegal seizure of a woman’s home-canned peaches during the dramatic 2014 raid.

The governor told the Bangor radio station WVOM that he doesn’t place a lot of stock in the report, but does want answers to some of the questions it raised.

"I don’t put much faith in Colin Woodard," LePage said. "However, that doesn’t mean that I’m going to sit by and just allow people to go undercover and drink beer and encourage people to shoot deer. That’s just not right."

LePage has been a past target of Woodard, who three years ago wrote an investigative series on the activities of the Department of Environmental Protection.  It prompted the administration to issue a gag order that barred state officials from communicating with reporters at the newspaper.

In 2014, Woodard wrote a story for Politico that used a headline calling LePage America’s "craziest governor."

Still, the allegations in the warden story have gotten LePage's attention, as well as that of state lawmakers. One member of the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee has already said that he wants answers from the warden service. And members of the Judiciary Committee say they’re seeking a formal investigation into whether the Maine Warden Service defied the state’s public records law.

This story has been updated.

Journalist Steve Mistler is Maine Public’s chief politics and government correspondent. He is based at the State House.