Please hop aboard the way-back machine for a short trip.
It's August 2011, and Paul LePage has been governor for seven months. After experiencing difficulty finding a director of Health and Human Services, the governor appoints Mary Mayhew, a former lobbyist for the Maine Hospital Association.
Some people voice concern that she has had no experience running such a large organization, and certainly no direct experience with human services delivery.
By August, Mayhew has relieved eight of the department's veteran supervisors, people who were apparently not providing her, or the governor, with the right answers.
A disastrous legislative session follows as lawmakers try to obtain accurate numbers from the new DHHS management team. Those numbers never appear, and it eventually becomes apparent that the 2012-2013 budget has been based upon inaccurate DHHS estimates.
Let's now fast-fast forward to 2013, where we find little relief in the chaos at DHHS.
First, the agency is embroiled in a dispute with the federal government over human rights and staffing violations at the Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta. The feds have threatened to withdraw $20 million in annual support for the hospital.
Although knowing about the problem for months, DHHS fails to bring the deficiencies to the attention of the Legislature, where staffing and funding problems might have been solved.
Instead, in September, the governor calls an emergency session to propose a solution. Legislators approve the LePage plan despite confusion and misgivings about its effectiveness.
In a floor speech, Rep. Mike Carey, D-Lewiston, tells fellow legislators that the plan "does not solve the significant human rights, management and staff problems at Riverview."
By early December, it becomes clear Carey and others were right on target; the feds have withdrawn the $20 million and the person overseeing a consent decree governing the treatment of mental health patients in state custody tells the Legislature the LePage plan has done nothing to solve the most significant deficiencies at Riverview.
Second, it becomes clear DHHS selected the wrong contractor to provide non-emergency-care transportation for most of the state's MaineCare recipients.
Rides are scheduled, but vehicles never show up. Drivers are dispatched, only to find another driver has already picked up a client. Physicians and agencies are angry because patients do not appear for appointments.
Now, the Lewiston-based operator, Coordinated Transportation Services, says it needs more money, and Mayhew actually seems open to the possibility of providing it.
Third, it becomes clear that Mayhew and officials at the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention have totally mismanaged a process to distribute money to Healthy Maine Partnerships across the state.
In a recent report to the Legislature, the impartial Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability finds that records were ordered destroyed, while other records were falsely manufactured after a public-records request from the Sun Journal and two Lewiston legislators, Margaret Craven and Peggy Rotundo.
OPEGA also finds that subjective criteria was used in the process, while relevant criteria was ignored. In one case, a Healthy Maine provider was selected over another that had higher scores as a favor to a person CDC officials liked.
Fourth, Mayhew and the governor handed a $925,000 no-bid contract to an out-of-state contractor and conservative stalwart to find ways to eliminate people from MaineCare coverage.
That contractor has missed his first deadline by two weeks. The explanation: DHHS could not produce the information he needs to do the work.
Three years into the LePage administration, it is evident that the purge of experienced administrators in 2011 has resulted in continuing chaos at DHHS.
But if that's a problem, it is certainly not yet recognized at DHHS.
On Dec. 2, Mayhew hired Sam Adolphsen as the department's top financial person. Adolphsen, a 2008 Husson College graduate, has no business or government financial experience, earning his stripes instead at the Maine Heritage Policy Center.
He now finds himself overseeing a $2.8 billion budget at DHHS, the person in charge of 40 percent of state government spending.
While we wait to see how this works out, it's fair to question whether Adolphsen was really the most highly qualified person for a job requiring intimate knowledge of finance, accounting and federal regulation.
The message of the past three years at DHHS is simple: Chaos and poor performance are the price to be paid when ideology becomes more important than competency in hiring.
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.