Lawmakers vote to subpoena Maine CDC officials involved in document-shredding probe

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AUGUSTA — Lawmakers on the Government Oversight Committee voted Friday to subpoena officials at the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention to appear before the committee.

The committee had invited five CDC officials to provide information Friday about the destruction of public records, including Director Sheila Pinette, Deputy Director Christine Zukas, Office of Minority Health and Health Equity director Lisa Sockabasin, Division Director Deborah Wigand and Senior Program Manager Andrew Finch. The committee also invited former Division Director Sharon Leahy-Lind. 

Only Leahy-Lind agreed to appear. The others declined.

So on Friday, committee members voted unanimously to compel them to appear.

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“We need to know the truth about this, and we cannot simply ask someone elsewhere in the department who was not there to give us that firsthand knowledge of what transpired,” Sen. Christopher Johnson, D-Lincoln, said.

The committee is the only legislative one that can subpoena witnesses.

The allegations of document destruction came to light after Leahy-Lind, then-director for the CDC’s Division of Local Public Health, filed a complaint of harassment with the Maine Human Rights Commission. She later filed a federal whistleblower lawsuit.

She said her bosses at the CDC told her to shred documents related to the funding of the state’s Healthy Maine Partnership program. When she refused, she said, she faced retaliation.  

She has since left her job at the CDC.

In December, the Government Oversight Committee’s investigatory arm, the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability, released the results of its investigation into the matter. Findings supported Leahy-Lind’s claim that public records were ordered destroyed after the Sun Journal requested those records under the state’s open records law, the Freedom of Access Act. At least one significant document is missing.

The committee has been holding hearings on the OPEGA report in an effort to determine how public records were destroyed and why, and also what needs to be done to prevent similar actions from occurring in the future.

ltice@sunjournal.com

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