The man who kept Bangor’s courts running during COVID will lead the Legislative Assembly’s oversight arm

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The Orrington man who helped run the courts in Bangor as the COVID-19 pandemic halted many court cases will step down this month to become director of the legislature’s oversight branch. ‘State. There, he will oversee a staff that probes issues of government programs such as child welfare and legal services for the indigent.

Peter Schleck, 53, will become director of the Legislative Assembly’s nonpartisan Program Evaluation and Government Accountability Office on June 27. The appointment marks a return to government oversight for Schleck, who worked in oversight jobs in Washington, D.C., before becoming director of operations and clerk of the Penobscot County courts.

Schleck replaces Lucia Nixon, who has joined the Legislature’s Office of Fiscal and Program Review. Schleck will oversee a team of eight others after overseeing 29 clerks at Bangor. His salary will be $114,000 per year.

Peter Schleck, Director of Operations and Clerk of Courts for Penobscot County, takes on a new role as Director of the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability. Schleck worked at the Penobscot County Judicial Center for nearly four years. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / BDN

Schleck, who holds a law degree from Georgetown University, worked for more than 25 years in supervisory positions in the nation’s capital before moving to Bangor. He served as inspectors general for two federal agencies before working for the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, which Congress created after the Enron scandal in which the Houston energy company used questionable accounting practices.

He married in Maine in 2014 and commuted between Maine and Washington, DC, for three years. Schleck then took the court position in August 2018, about 18 months before COVID-19 shut down much of the state.

The court remained open during this time, but only handled emergency cases such as child protection cases, applications for protection from abuse and harassment, and first appearances of people in prison unable to pay. a caution.

“Government oversight and accountability is my go-to business,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to do the kind of work I’ve done before, but for the people of Maine.”

His biggest concession to the new job will be buying an electric car for the 160-mile round trip from his home to Augusta. Schleck currently alternates between driving his 1965 Oldsmobile Cutlass and a scooter to the courthouse, depending on the weather.

Clerk’s stamp of Peter Schleck lies inside his office at the Penobscot County Judicial Center, June 13, 2022. Schleck is stepping down as director of operations and clerk of the Penobscot County Courts to become the next Director of the Legislative Assembly’s Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / BDN

His first task as director of OPEGA will be overseeing the third phase of an evaluation of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services’ Child Welfare Division.

The Legislature has repeatedly tasked the office with investigating the division’s handling of cases since the murders of 4-year-old Kendall Chick and 10-year-old Marissa Kennedy more than four years ago. Lawmakers ordered new investigations last July following a series of deaths of young children. OPEGA submitted reports to the Legislative Assembly in January and March of this year.

The government oversight committee, which oversees OPEGA, also assessed Maine’s Commission on Indigent Legal Services to determine how well attorneys who agree to represent impoverished defendants who risk jail time are doing their job. Maine is the last state in the nation without some form of public defenders office. A pilot project for an office in Kennebec County was approved but not funded.

Suzanne Gresser, executive director of the Legislative Assembly, said Schleck’s experience in Washington, DC, made him a “perfect candidate” for the job.

“We are very happy to have him join the legislative team,” she said.

Schleck said he sees similarities between his job in the court system and his new job in the Legislative Assembly.

“The importance of objective, evidence-based decision-making is key to promoting trust in government,” he said. “Being objective, independent and fair is what the courts strive to do.”

Peter Schleck, Director of Operations and Clerk of Courts for Penobscot County, takes on a new role as Director of the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability. Schleck worked at the Penobscot County Judicial Center for nearly four years. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / BDN

Maine Supreme Court Justice Andrew Mead, who served as acting chief justice for 15 months, including at the height of the pandemic, called Schleck “indispensable.” Schleck hosted the justice system’s first socially distanced murder trial and helped the court adopt new technology to conduct more cases remotely.

“His steady hand and extraordinary managerial abilities served the court well during the tremendous challenges that occurred during the darkest days of the COVID pandemic and beyond,” Mead said.

Diana Durgin, 53, from the Levant, will succeed Schleck as clerk of the Bangor courts. She has over 30 years of experience in the Newport District Court Clerk’s Office.

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