The Maine Department of Health and Human Services offices on State Street in Augusta, shown in this December 2017 file photo.

For the second time in less than two months, the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee has voted to subpoena a ranking official at the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

The oversight committee voted 8-1 to subpoena Bethany Hamm, director of the Office of Family Independence.

Hamm was a no-show for Thursday’s work session about a report by the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability, which found a dramatic reduction in cash assistance to low-income families over the past seven years was linked to restrictions pushed by the DHHS and approved by the Legislature.

The report found that the DHHS has mostly used the savings in the Temporary Assistance For Needy Families Program in ways that are allowed under federal law, but also that the agency should be more transparent.

Members of the committee said they hoped Hamm would voluntarily answer questions about the report’s findings and that they were frustrated when she sent a letter instead.

The oversight committee has increasingly been forced to subpoena LePage administration officials, who have limited their interactions with legislative committees at the direction of Gov. Paul LePage.

In June the oversight committee subpoenaed DHHS Chief Ricker Hamilton after he didn’t show up to answer questions about OPEGA’s report on the state’s child welfare system that’s under the microscope because of two unrelated deaths of children that took place last year. The administration said the ongoing criminal investigation into those deaths and what the governor has described as “political grandstanding” by legislative committees were the reasons why Hamilton did not appear voluntarily.

A spokesperson for the DHHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Hamm’s absence Thursday.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.

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