AUGUSTA — Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services confirmed Thursday that four program directors have been relieved of their duties by the LePage administration.
DHHS employees were notified of the staff changes late Wednesday in an email from Commissioner Mary Mayhew.
The four directors are considered political appointments who serve at the pleasure of the commissioner. This brings to eight the number of people LePage has jettisoned at DHHS since taking office in January. The governor also fired former MaineCare Medical Director Dora Anne Mills. Mills, who held a contract position, was let go in February.
Wednesday's firings involved Don Chamberlain and Ronald Welch, who both headed the Adult Mental Health Services program; Diana Scully of Elder Services; and Jane Gallivan of Adults with Cognitive and Physical Disabilities.
All were appointed by Gov. John Baldacci.
Anthony Marple, head of MaineCare Services, was let go in February. James Beogher, who headed the Child and Family Services program, was relieved of his duties last month. Russ Begin, deputy commissioner of finance, was released earlier this year.
Jennifer Duddy, director for legislative relations, left shortly after she was hired by Mayhew in March.
In her message to DHHS employees, Mayhew wrote, "These changes continue the assembly of a new leadership team at DHHS as part of the new administration. The primary goal remains meeting the needs of Maine people within existing resources through a system that is more integrated, efficient and cost-effective."
Mayhew, in a statement released Thursday morning, declined to say why the changes were made, citing that the issue was a personnel matter.
Sen. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, the ranking Democrat on the Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee, blasted the firings, saying the decision was a political move that comes at the expense of expertise and experience at an overwhelmed department.
Craven blamed Mayhew for caving to the governor.
"Not only am I disappointed in this decision, I'm also disappointed in Commissioner Mayhew's management curve," Craven said. "She was hired to manage this important agency and now she's gutting it for purely political reasons."
The latest move comes in the wake of DHHS criticism from the leaders of conservative groups who say the department is in need of a cultural overhaul.
LePage declined to directly comment on the shakeup.
"What I can tell you is when there is a new (administration), political appointment changes are to be expected," said Adrienne Bennett, the governor's spokeswoman. "As far as the cultural change — we must ensure that all state workers are focusing on their department's mission."
Mayhew said Guy Cousins will serve as acting director of the Office of Adult Mental Health Services while remaining director of the Office of Substance Abuse. Ricker Hamilton, an employee within the Office of Elder Services, will assume the director’s role at OES and serve as acting director for the Office of Adults with Physical and Cognitive Disabilities Services.