Former CDC official must give up medical info in whistle-blower suit

AUGUSTA — A former Maine Center for Disease Control division director who has filed a federal whistle-blower lawsuit against the Maine Department of Health and Human Services must hand over more than three years worth of her diaries, medical records and mental health records, as well as the names of any doctor or mental health professional she's seen since 2011.

The department's lawyers had sought medical information for Sharon Leahy-Lind from as far back as 2008, but a judge ruled that they were entitled to only the information gathered since 2011, the year before she started as division director with the CDC.

The judge denied the department's request for other medical documents, including those that show all of Leahy-Lind's health-related expenses incurred since 2012 and any correspondence with health or life insurance companies since 2012.

Leahy-Lind's lawyer, Cynthia Dill, had argued that the information was irrelevant, privileged and too broad.

"From my perspective, it's a fishing expedition to look for ways to undermine either my client's credibility or somehow suggest that she came to the job suffering from some condition that, perhaps, made her more sensitive to a work environment that an otherwise hardy individual could endure," she said. "The facts are that Sharon had never seen a psychiatrist or psychologist and so that theory is not going anywhere."

Leahy-Lind has alleged that her bosses at the Maine CDC ordered her to shred public documents and then harassed and discriminated against her when she refused. Her allegations came to light last year when she filed a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission. In October, she filed a federal whistle-blower suit against CDC Director Sheila Pinette and DHHS, which oversees the CDC.

A CDC office manager has since sought to join the lawsuit and Dill has asked to add CDC Deputy Director Christine Zukas and Office of Minority Health and Health Equity Director Lisa Sockabasin as defendants. The judge has not yet ruled on that motion.   

The judge's medical information ruling came earlier this week. Lawyers for DHHS declined to comment on it Thursday, saying it's the department's policy not to comment on pending litigation.

Dill said a request for medical information is not unusual, particularly "in light of (Leahy-Lind's) allegations that her leave from work was caused by the actions of the defendants and that she was constructively discharged because of an intolerable work environment." However, she said, the scope of the request was unusual.

"I can't recall another case where communication with a life insurance provider was requested or an itemization of every health-related expense," Dill said.

Leahy-Lind's allegations led the Legislature's Government Oversight Committee last year to ask its Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability to look into document-shredding and grant program issues at the CDC.

OPEGA's December report noted a host of problems, including supervisors who ordered the destruction of public documents, workers who created documents specifically to fulfill a Sun Journal Freedom of Access Act request, funding criteria that was changed during the Healthy Maine Partnerships selection process, funding scores that were changed just before the final selection, a critical scoring sheet that has vanished and a tribal partnership contract for which OPEGA couldn't discern who was responsible.

Money, the investigation found, may have gone where it shouldn't have.

Since that report, the Government Oversight Committee has been trying to determine why public records were ordered destroyed and what should be done to prevent it from happening again.

OPEGA also is expected to look into the behavior of management and treatment of employees at DHHS.

ltice@sunjournal.com

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Comments

CAROLYN LIBBEY's picture

This demand for medical and

This demand for medical and mental health records for Sharon is ludicrous and most certainly a fishing expedition on the part of the defense team for Pinette, Zukas and Sockabasin. If the defendents are all looking guilty because there is so much evidence including conflicting testimonies on their parts, the next move, of course, is to smear the reputation of the plaintiff. BUT! Turnabout is fair play. Sharon's lawyer, Ms. Dill has been proven to be no dummy in and out of court. I sincerely hope she solicits the same information on Pinette, Zukas, and Sockabasin; i.e. all medical and mental health records, and, say, let's throw in any criminal findings just to even things up.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

This is what Mayhew has left and has gone to a new low;

A witch in her own self and style of doing her witch hunt on pointing her crooked finger at Leahy-Lind, for which she, Leahy-Lind having the right mind and training and for knowing that the State has no legal right to destroy documents and say that illegal workings was afoot.

So what has the crazy Mary have left; her mental deluded witch hunt to lay blame and incompetence on others.

____________
There is no doubt that Mayhew with just a degree in Political Science and being a paid lobbyist is totally incompetent of doing this job or any other. Fire her and LePage and send them packing in November.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Money, the investigation shows....................

Money the investigation shows may have gone where it shouldn't have.
I just can't get over this overly polite wording when it comes to breaking the law. It's almost as if a politician could go into a bank pull a gun and demand money. It would be reported in the papers as a politician was seen recently physically relocating money from one location to the next. We will have to seat a comity to find out why this happened and how to prevent this from happening again.
Fact of the matter is there already is a huge deterrent already in place, it's called a prison. If they would just use this deterrent a few times it might prevent some of this document shredding and intimidation that's going on. It sounds like the defense lawyers are trying to turn the tables on who did what to who. I really can't see the reason for medical records.............

GERRY LEMAY's picture

DHHS TREATMENT OF WHISTLE BLOWERS

IT IS TIME ALL THE TRUTH COMES OUT. TOO MUCH CORRUPTION IN STATE GOVERNMENT.

C.T. Lemay

CAROLYN LIBBEY's picture

Hey Gerry! Welcome to the

Hey Gerry! Welcome to the site.

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