An accounting office at Enron. A collateralized debt department at a Wall Street bank. Perhaps the central offices of the Atlanta School System.

Desperate people destroy evidence when large amounts of money and long jail sentences are at stake.

Or when embarrassing  political skulduggery might be revealed.

Wednesday, a veteran state official said her superiors in the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention ordered her to shred documents before the Sun Journal could receive them under the state’s open records law.

Sharon Leahy-Lind said her superiors in the CDC told her to shred scoring documents related to the distribution of money to Healthy Maine partnerships across the state.

Leahy-Lind leveled the charges in a discrimination complaint filed with the Maine Human Rights Commission.

“What was described as an ‘objective’ test was in fact manipulated so certain (partnerships) were favored over others,” Leahy-Lind, director of the CDC’s Division of Local Public Health, charged in her complaint.

When she did not destroy the documents, Leahy-Lind says she was harassed, kicked, told to “shut my f’ing mouth” and called “a stupid-ass goody-two-shoes,” by two superiors, including the deputy director of the department.

If true, the accusations may help explain the mysterious decision last year to sharply increase funding for some partnerships while slashing the funding to others.

Without warning last June, Healthy Androscoggin saw its state funding cut by 64 percent, while the Rumford-based Healthy River Valley, which serves a population about a quarter the size of Healthy Androscoggin, saw its funding increased by 85 percent.

Healthy River Valley was also designated the lead organization to coordinate the activities of groups in Oxford, Franklin and Androscoggin counties.

The CDC said the decision was based upon ability to fulfill previous contracts, efficient use of public resources, collaborative partnerships with the CDC and ongoing support of new ideas.

That it was on the outs with the CDC came as a surprise to Healthy Androscoggin, which was among the largest and most highly regarded of the health partnerships in Maine. Its director was unaware of any blemishes on the agency’s record.

Local legislators tried to meet with DHHS Director Mary Mayhew who, at the time, said she was too busy.

That’s when the Sun Journal filed a freedom of information request for documents explaining how the various agencies were graded.

The CDC at first told us it would take six weeks and cost $500 to find records of a decision that had been made only days before.

Finally, state Sen. Margaret Craven and Rep. Peggy Rotundo intervened and asked the CDC to speed up the process.

That, according to Leahy-Lind, set off a flurry of activity to “cleanse” the records. The final scoring grid, she says, does not reflect the one that she was asked to destroy.

Craven has speculated right along that the decision was political. She serves on the Healthy Androscoggin board and felt shifting the money was designed to punish her for being a vocal critic and opponent of Gov. Paul LePage and DHHS Director Mary Mayhew.

The CDC operates within DHHS.

Both Craven and Rotundo felt the decision-making process was extremely opaque and subjective.

Those were, of course, just their opinions, and opinions differ. Now, with an accusation, and from a department insider, that the scores and records were doctored, we need the truth.

We urge Attorney General Janet Mills to launch an investigation of Leahy-Lind’s accusations and, if they are valid, prosecute those responsible.

[email protected]

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


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: