AUGUSTA, Maine—A federal lawsuit was filed Friday over Maine Gov. Paul LePage's decision to remove a 36-foot mural depicting the state's labor history from the Labor Department.
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court seeks to confirm the mural's current location, ensure that the artwork is adequately preserved, and ultimately to restore it to the Department of Labor's lobby in Augusta.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of six plaintiffs: An organized labor representative, a workplace safety official, three artists, and an attorney.
LePage contends the mural depicting labor history overlooks the contributions of entrepreneurs. His office said Friday it hadn't seen the lawsuit.
"We have only seen the press release issued by a law firm that represents the AFL-CIO and employs the chairman of the Maine Democratic Party," said Adrienne Bennett, the governor's press secretary. "The mural remains safe and secure, awaiting transfer to a suitable venue for public display."
The 11-panel mural includes scenes of mill workers, labor strikes and child laborers. It was removed from the lobby of the Department of Labor last weekend after LePage complained that it depicted a biased view of labor history.
His office has said that artwork should depict the agency's role as the "Department of Labor -- not the Department of Organized Labor."
The federal lawsuit contends LePage; Joseph Phillips, director of the Maine State Museum; and Laura Boyette, acting labor commissioner, violated the U.S. Constitution as well as the contract with the artist who created the mural by removing the artwork from what was supposed to be its permanent location.
In his first public remarks on the mural, LePage told the Portland Press Herald in a brief interview Thursday that it had become a distraction to his legislative agenda.
If he had to do it all over again, he said he would have waited until after the Legislature wrapped up its duties before removing the mural.
Information from: Portland Press Herald, http://www.pressherald.com