Sharon Leahy-Lind, the division director who said her bosses at the Maine Center for Disease Control ordered her to shred public documents and harassed and discriminated against her when she refused, has filed suit against the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and Maine CDC director Sheila Pinette.
DHHS oversees the Maine CDC.
The suit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court, alleges Pinette and others within DHHS violated the Whistleblower Protection Act by retaliating against her when she refused to destroy documents connected to the funding of the Healthy Maine Partnerships program.
The suit also alleges defamation and violations of state and federal medical leave acts, the Maine Human Rights Acts, the Federal Civil Rights Act, the Freedom of Information Act and the First Amendment.
“It’s a very solemn and important public matter that I hope comes to resolution quickly and that justice prevails,” said Leahy-Lind’s lawyer, Cynthia Dill.
Leahy-Lind was director of the CDC’s Division of Local Public Health. She made headlines this past spring when she filed a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission claiming, among other things, that her bosses at the Maine CDC ordered her to destroy documents that showed the scoring results for the 27 Healthy Maine Partnerships at the center of controversy over hundreds of thousands of dollars in state funding. She said the scoring was manipulated to favor certain organizations over others.
Leahy-Lind said she refused to destroy the documents because that would have been illegal. When the CDC’s deputy director, Christine Zukas, learned that she hadn’t destroyed the documents, Leahy-Lind said she was assaulted and ordered to take the documents home and destroy them there. Leahy-Lind said she again refused and stored the records in files at her office.
After that, Leahy-Lind said, she was the victim of discrimination and retaliation, including assault.
Her lawsuit repeats the complaints she made to the Maine Human Rights Commission, with additional allegations of discrimination and retaliation that occurred after she filed her Maine Human Rights complaint last spring.
Because she is now suing, Leahy-Lind’s complaint has been pulled from the Maine Human Rights Commission. Dill said her client decided to file suit because the Maine Human Rights Commission didn’t have the time or resources to pursue its investigation “for quite some time” and a court case allowed her to add claims not within the Maine Human Rights Commission’s jurisdiction, including defamation.
Leahy-Lind resigned as director of the Division of Local Public Health in July, saying her bosses made it impossible for her to do her job, treating her disdain and disrespect and denying her basic work tools. She is currently working outside the public health arena.
The suit asks for unspecified damages and reinstatement as director of the division or back and forward pay.