Maine Agrees to Pay $142,000 to Whistleblower who Allegedly Faced Retaliation for Refusing to Shred Public Documents

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Maine Agrees to Pay $142,000 to Whistleblower

Maine Agrees to Pay $142,000 to Whistleblower

A former division director for the Maine Center for Disease Control is to receive $142,000 to settle her whistleblower lawsuit. The Maine Department of Health and Human Services released the settlement agreement on Friday. According to Sun Journal, the whistleblower alleges that she suffered harassment and retaliation for refusing to shred public documents.

The documents were related to funding the Health Maine Partnerships programs, Sun Journal reports. In April 2013, the whistleblower filed a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission alleging that her bosses ordered her to shred these documents, along with other things.

The whistleblower alleges that the documents were to be destroyed because her bosses did not want the documents to reach the Sun Journal or the public. When she refused, she was allegedly assaulted and harassed.

She filed a federal whistleblower lawsuit in October 2013 alleging that she had her rights violated and was publicly defamed for refusing to shred the documents. DHHS and CDC Director Sheila Pinette were named as defendants in the suit.

The Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee conducted a lengthy CDC document-shredding probe in March 2014 and questioned the whistleblower, Pinette, Deputy Director Christine Zukas, Office of Minority Health and Health Equity Director Lisa Sockabasin and others. According to Sun Journal, CDC leaders confessed that employees were ordered to destroy public documents. These documents showed that scoring was changed at the end of a competitive grant process in order to ensure that a favored organization received the funding using public money even though their original score was not high enough.

In September 2014, a CDC office manager was permitted to join the lawsuit as co-plaintiff and Zukas and Sockabasin were added as defendants. The newly added plaintiff alleged that she also suffered retaliation and harassment for publicly speaking out about problems at the CDC. The new plaintiff will receive $22,500 from the state as part of the settlement, in which the defendants admit no wrongdoing. Additionally, the original whistleblower agreed to not pursue another job with DHHS as part of the settlement. She resigned in July 2013, stating that her bosses prevented her from doing her job.