Our View: LePage keeps ignoring issues at DHHS

Gov. Paul LePage needs to walk over to Maine's Department of Health and Human Services and handle some personnel problems, and soon.

While the governor was announcing a controversial new program Wednesday to allow more commercial tree cutting on public lands, Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, was talking about a mysterious $1 million payment buried deep in DHHS records.

Gattine seems to have unearthed an unusually large payout to the private contractor tasked with arranging rides for disabled and elderly Mainers to their jobs and medical appointments.

Gattine told the Portland Press Herald that he has been asking DHHS for answers for several weeks without success.

This is the latest chapter in the miserable saga of Coordinated Transportation Solutions. The company obtained a $28.3 million contract from the state to arrange the rides, and began work Aug. 1.

But complaints immediately flooded DHHS, and local newspaper offices, from thousands of riders who were stranded, dropped in the the wrong locations, stood up by drivers or simply unable to contact the company at all.

After months of poor performance, DHHS finally canceled the CTS contract as of June.

While it's good Gattine is asking questions, there is little doubt about what happened here.

The state put the work out to bid and then accepted a suspiciously low bid from CTS, a company with a checkered history of low-balling bids in other states.

CTS claims it based its bid on inaccurate workload estimates provided by DHHS. Other contractors in the same field, however, have told the Sun Journal that CTS' bid was so low it should have raised red flags at DHHS.

This fiasco cannot be blamed upon the contractor alone.

If the estimated scope of the bid was incorrect, that was DHHS' fault. If DHHS officials were snookered by an unreasonably low bid, that's also DHHS' fault for not investigating the company's ability to complete the work at the stated price.

DHHS compounded this error by requiring and then never receiving a performance bond from the contractor. That bond money could now be used to help cover these unexpected expenses, but CTS never provided it.

This is Contract Management 101. Why was the company allowed to start the work without providing the bond? That someone at DHHS never checked that it had been received is outrageous.

That CTS never obtained a bond clearly shows the company was either too shaky to obtain one or that failure was part of its plan. The company probably counted on coming back to the state for more money or using its failure as leverage for a more lucrative contract.

It is troubling that Commissioner Mary Mayhew's department has not responded to a legitimate request from a legislator for an explanation for the big payout, but it's not surprising.

She was silent last week in the face of strong evidence that people beneath her destroyed documents to conceal a bid-rigging scandal within the agency's Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Last week, Mayhew finally fired the head of the Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta after months of turmoil, understaffing and violence at the facility. LePage and Mayhew's failure to address problems there in a timely fashion has resulted in the loss of an estimated $20 million in federal funding.

We all know that President Harry Truman had a sign on his desk: "The buck stops here." In the LePage administration, the buck for internal incompetence doesn't seem to stop anywhere.

Instead, the governor tends to dismiss all complaints, valid or not, as politically motivated.

Yet his opponents didn't hire the unqualified ride contractor, CTS. His enemies didn't fail to obtain the required bond for the contractor. His critics didn't tell his people to rig bids and destroy public documents. And his foes had nothing to do with the mismanagement at Riverview psychiatric and the loss of federal funding.

These are management failures. If the governor won't address them now, his opponents should force him to do so in this year's election.

rrhoades@sunjournal.com

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.

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Comments

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

LePage's Achilles heel

Mary Mayhew, DHHS, CDC and CTS...

His butt is gone and he just doesn't know it yet.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

Lets not forget

Mayhews and LePages poor managerial actions on the Riverview Psychiatric Center.

His ship is sinking and LePage the coward that he is, will not go down with the ship, he'll put the media and the Dems at the helm for his short comings and ignorance of being anything close to a man who knows what he is doing. Like Pauline said that helped raise him, he would never take responsibility for his mistakes and behavior and blamed her kids and others for his stupidity.

CAROLYN LIBBEY's picture

It might help if she had some

It might help if she had some kind if she had some kind of medical background.

Prediction: Two months before

Prediction: Two months before Eleection Day, Mary Mayhew will be asked to pound sand, in a gesture to show that he is eliminating incompetence and waste. He will count on the alleged short memory and geeneral ignorance of the electorate to try and make it look as if he was performing Responsible Government.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Could this be the beginning?????????

Could this be the beginning of the end? When Paul LePage has an ax to grind with anyone particularly the Democrats, He refuses to allow department heads to attend or participate in any sort of hearings or investigations. He states that they are to busy to answer questions and that what happens in the various departments is under his control. Or something like that. He claims that all State government goes thru him. Well that was the rule when he was feuding with the Democrats. Now that his department heads are starting to get caught up in these controversies. All of the sudden, their head honcho, lead mouth piece, commander in chief, is nowhere to be found. No cry's of trumped up controversy. Instead he out doing his own thing collecting brownie points with the press. In the hopes of garnering a few votes.
DHHS, and the CDC are both departments which he is responsible for. He is the one who should be answering legitimate questions from Legislators. Instead he seems to be avoiding this mess like the plague.
This is his election year, let's see how he handles these flagrant violations of procedure and very possibly the law. Lets see how he decides to deal with this mess.
Lets see if he can find someone else to blame this whole mess on.............................

JOANNE MOORE's picture

DHHS...........

Department of High Handed Stupidity.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

Major problem only a VP and a BA degree in Politics...

Before being appointed Commissioner by Governor Paul LePage, Mary served for a brief time as the Senior Health Policy Advisor for the Administration. Prior to joining state government, Mayhew served as Vice President of the Maine Hospital Association for 11 years. As Vice President, Ms. Mayhew was responsible for state and federal government relations and development and advocacy of the association's health care policies.

Prior to joining the hospital association, Mayhew was a partner in the public affairs firm of Hawkes & Mayhew based in Augusta, providing association management, public relations and advocacy services to a variety of clients.

Mayhew also served as a manager of state government relations for the Equifax Corporation in Atlanta, Georgia. Mayhew began her professional career as a legislative assistant in Washington D.C. for Congressman William Alexander.

Mayhew holds a B.A. in Political Science

Are you sure you don't mean a

Are you sure you don't mean a BS in political science? Or is that redundant?

Funny how she spent all of that time working for the hospital Association, you would think she would be more willing to follow their desires and push for MaineCare expansion, since Maine hospitals (and other medical organizations) are in favor of it.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

Mayhew holds a B.A. in Political Science.

But I get your drift.....You would think that too...but I think the lobbyist position and wearing that political badge, she might think she has a political road on the Right since this is her livelihood domain to think she is riding on the LePage train to stardom.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

Mayhew worked for Congressman WIlliam Alexander

Mayhew began her professional career as a legislative assistant in Washington D.C. for Congressman William Alexander.

Alexander served as the Congressman for the First District in Arkansas from 1969 until 1993. His later years would be marked by his involvement in the House banking scandal where Alexander was one of the worst offenders writing 487 bad checks totaling $208,546 to the House bank. His former staffer, Blanche Lincoln, used the opportunity to unseat him in the 1992 election. -
________

It appears that Mayhew has been mentored into deception and cover-ups by those named Alexander's .
______
Wonder if Gary Alexander that provided Mayhew the Medicare Expansion Report for $925 K is of the same family? Might be worth checking into....

JOANNE MOORE's picture

Jerry,

I have a sneaking suspicion that Mary Mayhew sees herself as another Sarah Palin. Trouble is, she doesn't have the brains. (snark)

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

Both those idiots

together couldn't complete a fully functional brain....We can thank William Kristol for finding the quitter Gov. and promoting her and becoming McCains folly into the election.

AL PELLETIER's picture

Great Editorial Mr Rhoades

DHHS is imploding at taxpayer expense due to its own mismanagement while LePage is getting as much press as he can criticizing the legislature while ignoring these serious issues.

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