Government Oversight Committee issues subpoena for DHHS Commissioner, LePage responds
AUGUSTA — Governor Paul LePage has issued a response to a subpoena from the Government Oversight Committee (GOC) requesting the presence of Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Commissioner Ricker Hamilton at their June 28 meeting. LePage responded to the subpeona the same day saying that Hamilton would not appear at the meeting in person due to several concerns.
Hamilton also failed to appear at the May 31 public hearing in Augusta, where the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability (OPEGA) presented their findings after investigating the DHHS handling of the deaths of two Maine girls in December and February. LePage instead attended that meeting to read a prepared statement.
The hearing in May was intended to include representatives for DHHS, who would be asked to answer questions arising from the OPEGA investigation’s findings, but LePage appeared in their place, reading a statement about privacy concerns and concerns about negatively impacting the criminal trials underway.
The investigation, which is now in its second phase, is focused on the death of 10-year-old Marissa Kennedy, who was reportedly beaten to death by her mother and stepfather over a period of months. The investigation also focuses on four-year-old Kendall Chick, whose reported abuse at the hands of her grandfather’s then-fiance led to her death in December.
Sharon and Julio Carrillo were both arrested and charged with depraved indifference murder February 26, the day after Marissa died at her Stockton Springs home. Shawna Gatto has been charged with the same crime as a result of Kendall’s death in Wiscasset.
In his response to the subpoena, LePage said he had received the letter from Beth Ashcroft, who requested Hamilton attend the June 28 GOC meeting in Augusta, but that he would not appear in person out of concern for confidentiality.
“Because of the continued need to follow appropriate confidentiality protocols due to the ongoing prosecutions related to the child welfare system, I determined that placing [Hamilton] in a situation where Legislators could ask any question would jeopardize the deliberate care taken to date by my office, DHHS, the AG’s office and OPEGA to follow the proper protocols to protect confidentiality. My office communicated with OPEGA that the Commissioner could answer questions in writing but would not participate in open-ended deliberations or discussions,” LePage wrote in his statement
LePage’s concerns were not limited to privacy issues, according to his response, which includes concerns that during an election year members of the GOC would use the hearing to “grandstand to score political points,” according to the release.
“As I told the GOC on May 31, we continue to have a good working relationship with OPEGA on this issue, and that my administration will cooperate. To that end, Commissioner Hamilton has met with OPEGA staff and DHHS has worked with the [Attorney General’s] office to make all relevant material available to OPEGA that can be released under the law. Furthermore, my administration has provided several recommendations regarding legislative changes to OPEGA, most of which were not discussed at today’s meeting,” LePage said.
Erica Thoms can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org