CDC director who made document-shredding allegations resigns

Sharon Leahy-Lind, the state agency director who said her bosses at the Maine Center for Disease Control ordered her to shred public documents and harassed and discriminated against her when she refused, has resigned.

Sun Journal file photo

Sharon Leahy-Lind, director of the CDC's Division of Local Public Health, resigned Wednesday. She filed a complaint of discrimination with the Maine Human Rights Commission in April.

In a statement released through her lawyer Wednesday afternoon, Leahy-Lind said her job has been "impossible to do" since she filed her complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission in April. She said she has been treated with disdain and disrespect and has been denied basic work tools, including an office phone.

Leahy-Lind's lawyer, Cynthia Dill, said her client had to do her work using a state-issued BlackBerry cellphone.

"(That) was unsatisfactory for a high-level professional who conducts numerous conference calls daily," Dill said.

She said she believes the delay in getting a desk phone was connected to the renovation of Lisa Sockabasin's office. Sockabasin, director of the Office of Minority Health, is one of the CDC officials Leahy-Lind had accused of harassment in her complaint to the Maine Human Rights Commission.

"It's not a coincidence that my client was deprived of an office phone and treated like a pariah," Dill said.

Leahy-Lind said Wednesday that her resignation was also prompted by the hiring of a new district liaison, an employee who would report directly to her. She said she wasn't allowed to conduct a second interview with top candidates, that candidates' expertise and experience was ignored and that the person ultimately chosen by CDC Director Sheila Pinette was not the person most qualified for the position.

Leahy-Lind said she believes one well-qualified candidate was rejected because that person witnessed some of the actions Leahy-Lind had complained about.

"Public health jobs should be filled by the best and the brightest; lives are on the line," she said. "I can no longer work in an environment where experience and expertise is cast aside, people are discouraged from acting honorably and those who come forward with complaints are targeted for harassment and abuse."

The Department of Health and Human Services oversees the CDC. A spokeswoman for that department declined to comment, citing personnel issues.

Leahy-Lind made headlines this past spring when she alleged, among other things, that her bosses at the Maine CDC ordered her to destroy public documents and then harassed and assaulted her when she refused. Those documents, she said, showed the scoring results for the 27 Healthy Maine Partnerships at the center of last summer's controversy over state funding. She said the scoring was manipulated to favor certain organizations over others.

Leahy-Lind said she refused to destroy the documents because that would have been illegal. When the CDC's deputy director, Christine Zukas, learned that she hadn't destroyed the documents, according to Leahy-Lind's complaint, she "physically assaulted me and ordered me to take the documents to my home and destroy and dispose of them there." Leahy-Lind said she again refused and stored the records in files at her office.

After that, Leahy-Lind said, Zukas and Sockabasin retaliated and discriminated against her. At one point, she said, she was told "to 'shut my f'ing mouth' by (Sockabasin) and not to mention the favorable treatment given to the Tribal Healthy Maine Partnership, or face adverse employment consequences."

At another point, she said, Sockabasin screamed at her and called her "a stupid-ass goody-two-shoes."

Leahy-Lind said she was repeatedly assaulted, both physically and verbally.

Leahy-Lind, Sockabasin and Zukas each have their supporters.

The Maine Human Rights Commission has Leahy-lind's complaint. Dill said her client plans to add her latest grievances to that complaint. However, she also said Leahy-Lind will likely pull the complaint from the Maine Human Rights Commission and request the right to sue in court. A court case will allow her to add claims not within the Maine Human Rights Commission's jurisdiction.

The Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability, known as OPEGA, is looking into how the CDC allocated money to Healthy Maine Partnerships and whether any public documents were ordered to be destroyed. The office expects to report on its findings this fall.

The Attorney General's Office is actively reviewing the allegations of document-shredding. The AG's Office generally conducts a review to determine whether there is basis for an investigation.

Sockabasin was recently named a DHHS tribal liaison, making her responsible for collaborating with Maine's federally recognized tribes. Because the DHHS spokesperson did not immediately respond to a phone message or additional questions posed over email Wednesday evening, it is unclear whether that role is in addition to her job as director of the Office of Minority Health and, if so, whether it comes with a pay increase.

ltice@sunjournal.com

What do you think of this story?

Login to post comments

In order to make comments, you must create a subscription.

In order to comment on SunJournal.com, you must hold a valid subscription allowing access to this website. You must use your real name and include the town in which you live in your SunJournal.com profile. To subscribe or link your existing subscription click here.

Login or create an account here.

Our policy prohibits comments that are:

  • Defamatory, abusive, obscene, racist, or otherwise hateful
  • Excessively foul and/or vulgar
  • Inappropriately sexual
  • Baseless personal attacks or otherwise threatening
  • Contain illegal material, or material that infringes on the rights of others
  • Commercial postings attempting to sell a product/item
If you violate this policy, your comment will be removed and your account may be banned from posting comments.

Advertisement

Comments

Kristi Ricker's picture

I have to agree with the

I have to agree with the previous comment that this has been nothing but a smear campaign. From the beginning this reporter has only written one sided articles and was not interested in reporting the facts from both sides. When given factual information regarding our Tribal Public Health District, including copies of the legislation that made us our own public health district and that describes how we are to be funded equally as every other Lead HMP in the other districts, she was not interested.

As for Ms. Sockabasin being appointed the new DHHS Liaison, there is no one better suited for the job than someone with knowledge and respect for the tribal communities we serve.

LINDSAY D. TICE's picture
staff

Thank you for your comment

Thank you for your comment. An AG's Office spokesperson confirmed Wednesday that the office is actively reviewing the allegations of document-shredding. The accusations have not been dismissed by the AG's office.

If an investigation was closed by another group, office, or department, please let me know and I will follow up.

Bob White's picture

Let me guess when they find

Let me guess when they find no wrong doing the SJ wont put that story on the front page it will be somewhere way in the back.

Megan Hannan's picture

This reporter should call the

This reporter should call the Attorney General, and when she does, report that all accusations were dismissed, found groundless. One sided reporting is never OK, and this story has been nothing but a smear campaign. Ms. Sockabasin's new responsibility is because the Deputy Commissioner recently resigned, and the position needed filling. Clearly, Ms. Sockabasin is qualified for the position, or the Commissioner and Governor would not have chosen her.

Mark Wrenn's picture

qualified

"Ms. Sockabasin is qualified for the position, or the Commissioner and Governor would not have chosen her." Wanna bet? Qualification has nothing to do with LePage's appointments. Look at Aho.

Advertisement

Stay informed — Get the news delivered for free in your inbox.

I'm interested in ...