The Office of the Maine Attorney General advised the Mills administration not to give lawmakers direct access to confidential records related to a series of child deaths.

The office of Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey finds itself on both sides in the dispute.  Press Herald photo

Now a deputy attorney general in the same office is representing the lawmakers and preparing a lawsuit seeking access to the records.

The awkward situation is not a first for the attorney general’s office, which serves as the lawyer for all state agencies as well as the Government Oversight Committee, which has special subpoena power.

Committee members discussed on Wednesday the possibility of hiring an outside counsel to handle its suit against the Department of Health and Human Services, which would be represented by the attorney general’s office. They feared a conflict of interest for the deputy attorney general assigned to the committee, Christopher Taub.

Taub told committee members they could probably go with a private attorney if they chose to – exceptions can be made in cases where conflicts exist – but he expressed confidence in being able to handle the suit without the need for any additional resources from his office. He said there has been a “wall” established within the AG’s office, preventing him from discussing this case with any other attorneys in the office.

Taub said he would file written arguments on behalf of the committee, the AG’s office would file a competing brief on behalf of DHHS and then a judge could hear arguments in court before making a ruling.

Taub cited a Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruling from 1989 that acknowledges the AG’s office may at times be in conflict with itself, but noting that it has enough attorneys to handle such situations. And Taub assured committee members he’s perfectly capable of handling the case independent of the office.

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