Mills Faces Hundreds Of Appointments To Myriad State Boards And Commissions

Jan 11, 2019

Gov. Janet Mills is facing the daunting task of finding hundreds of Mainers to serve on various boards and commissions throughout state government.

All of the vacancies and expected vacancies before the end of the year are spelled out in a report by the secretary of state’s office to the governor and Legislature.

Maine Public Senior Political Reporter Mal Leary has been reviewing the hundreds of pages, and spoke with Maine Things Considered Host Nora Flaherty about what it all means.

Flaherty: What are we talking about for board and commissions?

Leary: There are hundreds of these that have been created by state government over the years. A lot of them are advisory boards to state agencies, for example, the Brain Injury Advisory Council or the Committee on Dental Education. But some of these have substantial responsibility, in fact — they have rulemaking ability or they have the responsibility of running a large institution. For example, there’s the University of Maine System Board of Trustees and the Finance Authority of Maine board. And then there’s a whole host of professional and business licensing boards, that range from doctors to real estate appraisers and everything you could think of in between.

Hundreds of vacancies seems like a lot. Are we talking about boards that have more than one vacancy?

Oh yes. For example, the Developmental Disabilities Advisory Board has a majority of its slots vacant. Many have a couple of vacancies, but that can affect the ability of a board to function. Most have rules that set out a minimum number for quorum to conduct business. For example, let’s say you have a five-member board with two vacancies, and a third member sick. That board cannot conduct any business. The report says there are 343 vacancies as of Dec. 31, and some of those have been vacant for more than a year.

So, Gov. Paul LePage did not fill all the appointments he could have before he left office?

Oh absolutely. But there were efforts throughout his term to try and fill these positions. It’s difficult to find people willing to volunteer to serve on some of these boards and commissions, and while most of the list is made up of appointments that are made by the governor, there are some made by commissioners of various state agencies. The commissioner of Department of Health and Human Services, for example, names the members of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Advisory Commission. There are also vacancies to be filled by the speaker of the House and the president of the Senate.

How many vacancies are expected to occur this year that will add to the workload of filling them all?

It’s going to add substantially to the workload. There are about 800 vacancies that are expected to occur this year, including relatively important posts like with the Board of Environmental Protection. And there are scores of vacancies on licensing boards, and those are very important because they have rulemaking authority and they actually control those professions and protect the public. It’s expected that some incumbents whose terms have run out will be reappointed and that some boards and commissions will allow members to continue to serve until their replacement is made. But not all of them have that statutory provision.

This interview has been edited for clarity.