AUGUSTA — The Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee took two more steps to deal with issues related to document-shredding at the Maine Center for Disease Control.

The committee voted unanimously Friday to try to clarify and strengthen rules surrounding grant funds, such as those at the heart of the document-shredding probe. Members plan to introduce a bill to make it clear that both grants and contracts — not just contracts — must go through a competitive bid process before a department can hand out taxpayer money.

They will also recommend that the Department of Administrative and Financial Services, which oversees state contracts, tweaks its rules to include both grants and contracts, as well as recommending that DAFS makes it clear when departments must go out for competitive bids on renewed or amended grants.

The committee also voted unanimously to forgo a formal investigation into workplace conditions at the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the CDC. Instead, the committee will accept preliminary research done by the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability.

An OPEGA senior analyst told the committee Friday that some workers are dissatisfied with supervisors at DHHS, but the workplace problems do not seem to be widespread. OPEGA will present the committee with an informational brief on its findings. No date had been set for that presentation, but OPEGA Director Beth Ashcroft said it will likely be at the end of March.

OPEGA began looking into problems at the CDC in 2013 after Sharon Leahy-Lind, then-director of the CDC’s Division of Local Public Health, filed a complaint of harassment with the Maine Human Rights Commission. She said her bosses at the CDC told her to shred public documents related to the grant funding for the state’s Healthy Maine Partnerships program. When she refused, she said, she faced harassment and retaliation.


OPEGA investigated and found a host of problems at the CDC, including the ordered destruction of public documents, documents created specifically to fulfill a Sun Journal Freedom of Access Act request, grant funding criteria that was changed during the selection process and funding scores that were changed at the last minute, giving grant money not to the organization that originally scored the highest but to an organization that CDC officials favored.

Leahy-Lind has since left her job at the CDC. She and a CDC office manager filed a federal whistle-blower lawsuit against the department and officials at the CDC. The two sides agreed to a settlement in January, but that settlement is not yet finalized. 

The Government Oversight Committee has been working for more than a year on ways to address the issues raised in OPEGA’s CDC report. Concerned about Leahy-Lind’s allegations of harassment and complaints from other current and former DHHS workers, committee members also spun off a separate investigation, asking OPEGA to look into the workplace environment at DHHS.

In addition to the steps taken Friday, the committee has notified the Maine Attorney General’s Office in the past year that CDC leaders may have violated the state’s Freedom of Access Act. The Attorney General’s Office asked a deputy district attorney to look into the issue. He recommended that no charges be filed, saying he could not prove that the official who “directed” the destruction knew she was doing something wrong.

The committee has also asked the AG and secretary of state to convene a working group to look at ways Maine can improve the retention of public records. That working group was formed and is expected to report back next month.

The committee also submitted legislation to address ethics violations among state employees. The State and Local Government Committee now has that bill.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. 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.