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Maine Department of Health and Human Services Settles Whistleblower Suit with Former Employee

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Maine Dept of HHS Settles Suit with Former Employee

Maine Dept of HHS Settles Suit with Former Employee


A former employee of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) will receive $142,500 from the department to settle a federal whistleblower suit.

The former division director for the Maine Center for Disease Control (CDC) sued DHHS and her bosses at the CDC, alleging that she was harassed and retaliated against for refusing to shred public documents. The DHHS released the settlement agreement last Friday, according to the Sun Journal (SJ).

As part of the settlement, a co-plaintiff, a CDC manager, will receive $22,500 from the state of Maine. The state will also pay the plaintiffs’ attorney a sum of $85,000 to cover legal bills. Additionally, DHHS, the CDC director, the deputy director, and the Office of Minority Health Equity director admit no wrongdoing. The whistleblower has also agreed not to seek another job with the DHHS. She left her position in July 2013, alleging that her bosses made it impossible for her to do her job. The parties agreed to a confidentiality agreement that prevents either side from discussing its contents. A clause in the agreement allows for the settlement’s release, per the Freedom of Access Act, SJ reported.

The two-year ordeal began in April 2013, when the whistleblower filed a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission, accusing her bosses of ordering her to shred public documents concerning funding for the Healthy Maine Partnerships program. The plaintiff alleged her bosses wanted the documents destroyed to prevent SJ and the public from seeing them. She alleges that she was assaulted and harassed when she refused to do so, according to SJ.

In October 2013, the plaintiff filed a federal whistleblower lawsuit against the CDC director and DHHS. In the suit, she alleged that the CDC director and others within the department retaliated against her when she refused to destroy the documents, violated her rights and publicly defamed her. The accused were questioned by the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee for six hours in March 2014. CDC leaders confessed to instructing employees to shred public documents that showed scoring was changed at the end of a competitive grant process, funneling public money to an organization that had not initially scored high enough to receive the funds, but was favored by CDC leaders, SJ reported.

In September 2014, a judge permitted a CDC manager to join the suit as a co-plaintiff, and the Office of Minority Health and Health Equity director and the CDC deputy director as defendants. The CDC manager said that she, too, had experienced harassment and retaliation for speaking out about the problems at the CDC, according to SJ.

SJ reported that Maine has paid private lawyers to represent DHHS and the CDC officials named in the lawsuit because the Maine Attorney General’s Office withdrew as counsel in the beginning of 2014. According to a DHHS spokesperson on Tuesday, the state paid those private lawyers more than $320,000 to handle the lawsuit and settlement.

 

breakinglawsuitnews.com disclaimer: This article: Maine Department of Health and Human Services Settles Whistleblower Suit with Former Employee was posted on Friday, February 20th, 2015 at 6:10 pm at breakinglawsuitnews.com and is filed under Other Lawsuits, Uncategorized.

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