Legislative watchdog panel will subpoena Maine CDC officials in document-shredding case

Posted Feb. 21, 2014, at 11:53 a.m.
Last modified Feb. 21, 2014, at 3:59 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Lawmakers on the Government Oversight Committee voted unanimously Friday to subpoena officials at the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention to appear before the committee.

The Government Oversight Committee had invited five CDC officials to provide information Friday about the destruction of public records. The five were CDC director Sheila Pinette, CDC deputy director Christine Zukas, Office of Minority Health and Health Equity director Lisa Sockabasin, division director Deborah Wigand and senior program manager Andrew Finch.

The committee also invited former division director Sharon Leahy-Lind.

Only Leahy-Lind agreed to appear. The others declined.

On Friday, committee members voted unanimously to compel them to appear.

“We need to know about the truth about this, and we cannot simply ask someone elsewhere in the department who was not there to give us that firsthand knowledge of what transpired,” said Sen. Christopher Johnson, D-Somerville.

The GOC is the only legislative committee that can use subpoenas to bring witnesses before it.

The allegations of document destruction came to light after Leahy-Lind, then-director for the CDC’s Division of Local Public Health, filed a complaint of harassment with the Maine Human Rights Commission. She later filed a federal whistleblower lawsuit.

She has said her bosses at the CDC told her to shred documents related to the funding of the state’s Health Maine Partnership program. When she refused, she said, she faced retaliation.

She has since left her job at the CDC. She and her lawyer have said the FBI has interviewed Leahy-Lind regarding wrongdoing at the CDC.

In December, the Government Oversight Committee’s investigative arm, the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability, released the results of its investigation into the matter. Findings supported Leahy-Lind’s claim that public records were ordered destroyed after the Sun Journal requested those records under the state’s open records law, the Freedom of Access Act. At least one significant document is missing.

The GOC has been holding hearings on the OPEGA report in an effort to determine how public records were destroyed and why, and also what needs to be done to prevent similar actions from occurring in the future.

 

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