April 13, 2013

Source: Maine A.G. reviewing document shredding by state official

A CDC official allegedly ordered records destroyed that could show favoritism in funding.

By Michael Shepherd mshepherd@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

Maine's attorney general is reviewing a claim that a state health official ordered the shredding of public records, according to the head of the Legislature's watchdog agency.

Beth Ashcroft, director of the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability, said Friday the Maine Attorney General's Office told her it is reviewing the shredding incident. Tim Feeley, a spokesman for the attorney general's office, declined to comment on the matter.

The allegation stems from a discrimination claim filed recently with the Maine Human Rights Commission by Sharon Leahy-Lind of Portland, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention's Division of Local Public Health.

In the complaint, she alleged that her supervisor, CDC Deputy Director Christine Zukas, told her last spring to shred documents related to the competitive awards of funding to health outreach nonprofits under the Healthy Maine Partnership. Believing it would be illegal, Leahy-Lind didn't comply.

According to the complaint, the records showed the scoring results for funding awards under the program. The Lewiston Sun Journal reported that the scoring resulted in a dramatic decrease in funding for Healthy Androscoggin, a nonprofit in Lewiston, and a sharp increase for a smaller organization, Rumford-based Healthy River Valley.

Sen. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, told the newspaper last year that she thought the funding decisions were politically motivated. In her complaint, Leahy-Lind said the results were manipulated.

After Leahy-Lind didn't shred the documents, she alleged Zukas assaulted her and ordered her to take the documents home and destroy them. Again, Leahy-Lind said she didn't comply.

The complaint also says Lisa Sockabasin, director of the CDC's Office of Minority Health and Health Equity, told Leahy-Lind to "not to mention the favorable treatment given to the Tribal Healthy Maine Partnerships, or face adverse employment consequences."

Since then, Leahy-Lind said she was placed on administrative leave. Her attorney, Cynthia Dill, told the Portland Press Herald that was "blatant retaliation, in my point of view."

Sen. Emily Cain, D-Orono, co-chair of the Legislature's Government Oversight Committee, which directs OPEGA, said the committee is considering an investigation into other factors relating to the incident. Those could include the process and standards by which funds are distributed and the overall workforce environment at the Department of Health and Human Services.

The committee is set to meet again April 26, and Cain said it will likely discuss this incident then.

State House Bureau Writer Michael Shepherd can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:


On Twitter: @mikeshepherdme

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