Governor fires MaineCare director Mills

AUGUSTA — Dr. Dora Anne Mills, medical director of MaineCare and formerly head of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, was fired Wednesday.

undated handout of Dr. Dora Mills 2003

A statement from Gov. Paul LePage's communications staff said Mills had been relieved of her duties "effective immediately” as a new leadership team is assembled in the Department of Health and Human Services.

The dismissal was a personnel issue and as such, confidential, the statement read. No further information was released.

A spokesman for Maine doctors said he was surprised and saddened to learn of Mills' firing.

“She's a really dedicated public servant, a pediatrician who's interested in all the right things: children, public health,” said Gordon Smith of the Maine Medical Association. “She works 20 hours a day. I've never known anybody to work any harder.”

Smith said Maine has “lost a wonderful, hardworking public servant. I know physicians in Maine feel the same way. At Maine CDC she was like the surgeon general for the state.” She did a good job of informing citizens of  immunizations, flu shots and food-poisoning outbreaks, Smith said.

Rep. Tom Winsor, R-Norway, said Mills had been a dedicated public servant. "I'm sad to see her go, but in the end it's the governor's call."

Ed Miller of the American Lung Association in Maine called Mills “a competent public health person."

"We were hoping she'd bring that perspective to the MaineCare program, looking at ways to improve the health of that population and reducing costs,” he said.

Mills was director of the Maine CDC for nearly 15 years under Govs. Angus King and John Baldacci.

“She spoke well to the public health community ... to everyday people in Maine," Miller said. "They looked to her for leadership on tough health problems. She provided that leadership.”

Mills helped Maine decrease its smoking rate from one of the worst states in the country to one of the best, Miller said, adding that she did much to protect citizens  from secondhand smoke.

'Muzzled'

One Democratic senator said she was “astounded” that Mills had been fired.

Sen. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, said the medical director of MaineCare, the job Mills had until Wednesday, “is a position where you're presenting what's so,” not making policy or opinion.

“It's just like the firing of Tony Marple, who was director of MaineCare,” Craven said. In January, Marple gave a presentation to legislators about how Medicaid spending in Maine had gone down, even with growing enrollment from the recession. That contradicted one of LePage's campaign issues, that Maine had become a welfare state.

“The next day, Marple was escorted out of his office with security,” Craven said, adding that Marple was “very, very skilled.”

Craven said the firing of Marple and Mills “is a loss for Maine to the degree we're losing so many people that have experience and know how those systems work. Medicaid is a very complex system.”

Top staffers “do serve at the pleasure of the governor, but the whole department is just gutted,” Craven said. “It's hard to come back to the speed,” she said, adding that she's worried inexperienced staff, or not enough staff, could cost Maine valuable matching federal money.

“And last week this came out of LePage's mouth when he was announcing Steve Bowen would be the commissioner of education,” Craven said. “LePage said, 'I don't care about somebody's lack of experience. What I care about is loyalty.'”

The administration has “muzzled” others, she said.

Two weeks ago during testimony of a bill to legalize fireworks in Maine, “the fire marshal opposed the bill, but LePage told him he couldn't testify. Those are the kinds of things going on. It's astonishing. I don't think people realize how dangerous it is to require that level of loyalty for him telling his commissioners they can't speak freely.”

Adrienne Bennett, press secretary for LePage, said Wednesday that “the governor is not gutting the Department of Health and Human Services, but rather looking for ways to improve the agency and the programs that are offered to Mainers. It is not uncommon for new administrations to assemble new leadership teams,” she said.

In December, Mills said she was leaving the CDC because it was time for a change. Becoming the medical director of MaineCare would allow her to oversee and monitor the quality of health care delivery, with the goal of improving the health of people on MaineCare, she said.

MaineCare provides health coverage for 340,000 low-income and disabled people, about 26 percent of the state's population. Mills said she wanted to work with the MaineCare population to reduce the number addicted to tobacco and to help reduce the number of poor children with lead poisoning. Her new job would allow her to call on her experiences of practicing medicine and being a public health director, Mills said.

She also said in December she looked forward to working with Gov. Paul LePage's administration, making sure MaineCare “is as efficient and effective as possible.”

Dora Mills, 50, is a Farmington native. She was not available for comment on Wednesday.

bwashuk@sunjournal.com

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Comments

Sadie Roberts's picture

another not surprising dumb

another not surprising dumb move from our dumb governor. dr. dora mills i wish you the very best and i know whatever you do in your life you will succeed. he sure is the no. one of dumb and dumber.

 's picture

Misuse of "confidentiality"

I have been supportive of Paul LePage, but this incident troubles me as I see no valid reason why the issues involved in firing Dora Mills should be "confidential." Are we really supposed to believe that there was something wrong with her, and LePage is being considerate of her reputation by not revealing what it is? Has he told her what it is? Or is it his own reputation he is protecting by not revealing his motives? These are two public figures, and I think the public has a legitimate interest in knowing what's going on.

Jason Theriault's picture

My best guess

She was going to rip him apart in the press on his comments on BPA, so he fired her.

 's picture

Dora Mills firing

he fired the first one, Mr Marple, for reporting that the amount of people on Maine Care had actually decreased last year. that went against one of Lepages campaign honks that he was going to take care of the increase in welfare. same problem - facts got in the way of what he thinks. my guess is the same thing happened with dora mills. i think within two years he will have dismantled Maine Care completely. what does he care? his health insurance is covered. maybe he can let his daughter take over.
INTERESTING FACTOID - many people shop at Marden's for the great prices - probably even a few poor people, however, Marden's doesn't accept Food Stamps. Lepage sez it isn't about politics - it's about Maine people - rich Maine people. Oh well, probably some of those WWII internment camps are still up in Northern Maine (you know, the ones they put the Italians they picked up in Boston and kept during the war) and they can put the folks on Maine Care in them.
Buy a sippy cup and send it to Augusta c/o Paul Lepage.
IMPEACH LEPAGE!

 's picture

check your facts

www.can-so.org/allgoodthings/Eng-combined.pdf This is a link to the application to be permitted to accept food stamps. If you check the eligibility requirements, you find that Marden's doesn't qualify. They don't sell meat, poulty, fish or dairy products. So, no research with that issue, did you research the rest of your claims as well? As far a Mr. Marple's presentation, I don't think that passed the straight face test. Although I'm surprised it was admitted that 34% of the state is on state aide.

Jason Theriault's picture

What is the "straight face test"

Is that a test that if what the person says doesn't fit within your established opinion, it's automatically false?

 's picture

oops

My bad, 26% and 340,000 participants.

 's picture

It is too bad

However, it the right of the Governor to appoint the people he wants to serve in the appointed positions. The problem with it is that we lose good, qualified people in the process. Now, one can only hope that the Governor picks qualified and knowledgeable people to fill these positions. Unfortunately, it appears thus far that LePage doesn't care if they are qualified and knowledgeable. If he appoints people who are not very well qualified and knowledgeable then there will be horrendous problems as to how these programs function.

ANTHONY NAZAR's picture

LePage doesn't want advisors

I'm betting there's a connection between the small article on LePage about his denial of any scientific evidence which doesn't fit his preconceptions and the firing of Dr. Mills.

As a physician, she would have strong opinions about endangering people for profit. Much of the BPA controversy was over baby bottles.

I wonder if Mardens has a batch of currently unsalable BPA loaded bottles in the corner of a warehouse, hmmmmm.

Too bad Maine law does not permit recall. I'd stand outside the local grocery store in tomorrows storm to collect signatures to return LePage to Mardens as defective merchandise.

Marjorie  Grover's picture

DrDoraMills

Sorry to see a dedicated person let go. Wish you the best of luck Dora in the future. What is Gov.LePage thinking of?

GARY SAVARD's picture

Just like Baldacci and King

Just like Baldacci and King before him, Lepage is bringing in people that share his views on departmental operations. Dora Mills had a lot of experience, but where did she acquire it? On the job. This is all good fodder for people that don't like Lepage, though.

Jason Theriault's picture

Except he hired her.

LePage hired her.
I mean, did he interview her first? I know he dislikes "Science" and "Logic", but it's not like they discovered an indian burial ground in her lab or something. There shouldn't be any surprises with where she stands.

Since there is no logic explanation, I'm going to make up one....They were having an affair. And LePage's daughter stumbled in on them. And since he can't fire his daughter, he fired her.

Jason Theriault's picture

Looks like he's firing everyone who disagrees with him.

So, by my estimation, 62% of the state government will be canned by the time he's done.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Not a bad start.

Not a bad start.

A "personnel" issue? How

A "personnel" issue? How about a "personal" issue? He fires good professionals who threaten his position and covers it up with blather about other things.
He was not my choice, and I'm truly afraid for the welfare of this state. I hope he doesn't do too much damage that we will have to clean up when he leaves.
When do we get a recall going, anyway? I want to sign one!

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

"I hope he doesn't do too

"I hope he doesn't do too much damage that we will have to clean up when he leaves."
Some would argue that he's trying to clean up the mess that's been left by 30 years of democrat control.

 's picture

THIS IS TRANSPARENCY?

During the campaign , der Fuehrer stressed his administration wouild be completely transparent and it wasn't about politics - it was about Maine people. Well, evidently only the people he likes and only people as stupid as him that he doesn't feel threatened by. Also, I think his staff has realized that they better do the talking as every time he opens his mouth, he puts his foot in it. I don't remeber Baldacci or King or Curtis having a DEMERITT that told Maine people what the governor thought. But now every time der Fuehrer wants to say something IMPORTANT, it's a staffer we get and not the big cheese. Maybe those governors weren't afraid of being stoned or having rotten tomatos thrown at them by their subjects. Just as well as far as I'm concerned.I couldn't stand looking at or listening to that two faced a-hole that just left the white house - GW - and I can't stand the dough boy in Augusta. WHAT'S THE DOUGH BOY AFRAID OF? INTELLIGENT SPEECH AND THE TRUTH - EVIDENTLY.
Well - go to go - the guards are taking me down to the showers now.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Now you know how the rest of

Now you know how the rest of us feel about oBAMa. When's he going to chime in on the 14 AWOL Senators from Wisconsin? If they had been Republicans, he'd have been flapping his mouth a week ago.

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