- Associated Press - Thursday, March 26, 2015

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - The fired leader of the Maine National Guard on Thursday denied claims that he misled the public, saying he was consistently candid with Gov. Paul LePage about his support for the idea of swapping an engineering unit for an infantry unit.

LePage fired Brig. Gen. James Campbell on Tuesday after an internal review that focused on whether Campbell had been truthful about the possibility of the unit swap. He had led the guard since 2012 and spent nearly three decades in the military.

The Portland Press Herald reported Wednesday that documents it obtained through the Freedom of Information Act showed that Campbell brought up the idea of the swap in 2013, months before the federal government proposed nationwide National Guard cuts. The newspaper reported that the records showed Campbell misled the governor and the public about the planned swap and failed to publicly acknowledge that Maine was never at risk of losing its engineers to the federal cuts.

Campbell said Thursday that he and the governor spoke “uncounted times over the last two years” about the idea. He said he and LePage discussed the swap as recently as last week and he believed their relationship was “open and candid,” particularly about the swap.

“I have not made any steps or taken any actions without informing him all along and discussing it with him,” Campbell said, adding that if LePage had ever questioned the swap, he would have gone back to the National Guard and “tried to work out something different.”

LePage said there were contradictions between what Campbell told him and emails among National Guard officials. The Press Herald reported that emails among National Guard officials showed that Maine was not at risk of losing its engineering unit because it is a border state. LePage declined to say Thursday which specific emails or documents alarmed him.

“Gen. Campbell and I had a difference of opinion and since I was his superior, I asked him to find another career,” LePage said. “Frankly, I did what I thought was best for the state.”

Campbell, 50, said his 29-year military career is over because of the firing. He said he is not sure what he will do next and that the firing has “really thrown my family for a loop.” He said he and his wife, who have three adult children, are assessing what to do next.

Campbell said the National Guard Bureau made it clear in 2013 that engineering units were more vulnerable than infantry units and that the swap would mean fewer cuts to Maine positions.

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Associated Press writer Alanna Durkin in Augusta contributed to this report.

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