A former employee of Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services will receive a $142,500 settlement in a federal whistleblower lawsuit.
A former division director for the Maine Center for Disease Control sued DHHS and her bosses at the CDC, saying she was harassed and retaliated against for refusing to shred public documents. DHHS released the settlement agreement Friday as required by the Freedom of Access Act, the Bangor Daily News reports. A co-plaintiff, a CDC office manager, will receive $22,500, and the state will pay $85,000 to cover legal fees. Under the terms of the settlement, the agencies admit no wrongdoing. A confidentiality agreement prevents either side from discussing the settlement’s contents.
Sharon Leahy-Lind filed a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission in April 2013, alleging that her bosses ordered her to shred public documents related to funding in the Healthy Maine Partnerships program. She said they wanted the documents destroyed to prevent the Sun Journal newspaper and the public from seeing them, according to the Bangor Daily News. When she refused the order, she said, she was assaulted and harassed. She resigned in July 2013, saying her bosses made it impossible for her to do her job and in October 2013 she filed a federal whistleblower lawsuit. Leahy-Lind says DHHS officials retaliated against her for refusing to destroy documents, publicly defamed her, and violated her rights.
The Bangor Daily News reports that CDC leaders admitted that employees were told to destroy public documents. The documents showed scoring was changed at the end of a competitive grant process, awarding public money to an organization favored by CDC leaders but that had not originally scored high enough to receive the funding.