BANGOR, Maine — A state employee has sued the head of the Department of Environmental Protection alleging she was demoted after testifying before a legislative committee during her vacation about the dangers of the chemical bisphenol A, or BPA.
Andrea Lani of Whitefield filed the lawsuit last week in U.S. District Court seeking reinstatement to her former position — running a program focused on educating the public about toxic substances in plastics and their impact on children called the Safer Chemicals in Children’s Products program.
Lani, who has worked for DEP since February 1999, named Patricia Aho commissioner of DEP and Ronald E. Dyer director of the DEP Bureau of Remediation and Waste Management.
DEP spokeswoman Samantha DePoy-Warren referred questions Tuesday about the lawsuit to the Maine Attorney General’s Office, which must defend Aho and Dyer.
“We’re reviewing the complaint and will respond in due course in the context of the litigation,” said Brenda Kielty, spokeswoman for Maine Attorney General William J. Schneider.
Schneider’s office will have 60 days to answer the complaint after it has been served with it.
Lani’s attorney, David Webbert of Augusta, claimed in the lawsuit that on March 29 she testified before the Environmental and Natural Resources Committee in opposition to LD 1129, which, after it was passed, rewrote the 2008 Kid-Safe Products Act. Lani told the committee she worked for DEP and had been responsible for implementing the Toxic Chemicals in Children’s Products law.
She also testified that she was before the committee on her own time as the mother of three children, according to the complaint. Lani told the committee that LD 1129 was “bad public policy and would repeal an important law that protected children’s health and welfare in the state of Maine.”
In June, Lani alleged, her job function was redefined to focus on “strengthening and harmonizing the agency’s records management system, including an updating of record retention schedules and implementing a new approach to Freedom of Access law responses.” Her position at the safer chemicals program was filled by a far less qualified individual, who was hired in January at an entry-level clerical position, according to the complaint.
Correction: An early version of this story requires correction. Patricia Aho currently is the commissioner of the DEP. Ronald Dyer is the director of the Bureau of Remediation and Waste Management at the DEP.