CDC office manager asks to join whistle-blower suit

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A Maine Center of Disease Control & Prevention office manager wants to join the whistle-blower lawsuit filed by a former Maine CDC division director.

And the suit plans to accuse additional CDC officials — Deputy Director Christine Zukas and Office of Minority Health and Health Equity Director Lisa Sockabasin — of rights violations.

In a motion to amend filed late Friday afternoon, lawyer Cynthia Dill asked the federal court to add Katie Woodbury as a plaintiff to the suit originally filed by Sharon Leahy-Lind. Leahy-Lind is the former director of the Division of Public Health who has claimed her bosses at the CDC ordered her to shred public documents and then harassed and retaliated against her when she refused.

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Leahy-Lind’s suit currently names only the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the CDC, and CDC Director Sheila Pinette. She would like to add Woodbury as a second plaintiff and Zukas and Sockabasin as defendants.

Woodbury has come forward with claims similar to those alleged by Leahy-Lind, including harassment and retaliation for speaking publicly about problems at the CDC. 

“There are common issues of fact, there are common witnesses and certainly common questions of law that will be answered for both of these individuals, and that’s why I’m choosing to join them,” Dill said.

Last April, Woodbury spoke to the Sun Journal about what she had seen at the CDC. She echoed many of Leahy-Lind’s claims.

“If you do not agree with Chris Zukas, she’s got a hair trigger and she’ll rip you up,” Woodbury said at the time. “I’m a person that can take that, but I won’t. Some of the stuff that’s going on in that workplace is abuse. Blatant abuse.”

Friday’s motion alleges that Woodbury became a target of “a substantial campaign of harassment” after speaking to the newspaper. At one point, it said, she complained to the human resources department and was told, “whistle-blowers get guilty consciences,” “maybe you are imagining things” and “maybe you shouldn’t have talked to the newspapers.”

The motion alleges that Woodbury found out that Sockabasin gave jobs to two people without posting the positions or following proper procedure and that those people lacked the required skills and experience for the positions. When she questioned it, she said, she was told, “You will never see paperwork in this case,” even though it was her job to process the paperwork for new hires.

The motion also alleges that Woodbury’s co-workers were told not to speak to her, she was repeatedly assigned to different locations and supervisors and she was no longer allowed to occasionally work from home to accommodate medical appointments.

Woodbury still works at the CDC as an office manager.

ltice@sunjournal.com

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