Maine senator calls on DHHS to share case files of 4 Maine children killed last year

Published: Sep. 6, 2022 at 12:21 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 6, 2022 at 5:53 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - A Maine state senator is calling on the Department of Health and Human Services to share the case files of four Maine children who were killed last year.

Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Cumberland, is urging the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee to pursue legal action against DHHS to obtain those files.

The department has reportedly refused to share the files with the committee as part of its ongoing review of Maine’s child protective system.

They’ve cited concerns that doing so could jeopardize ongoing criminal investigations.

Diamond says he understands the general public must wait for the trials to happen, but he says the committee needs access to make recommendations and improvements to the system.

“The committee wasn’t asking to reveal the files to the public. They were simply saying saying can we see them confidentially? Not sharing them with anything, anybody else? Just to help us with our investigation. It really doesn’t add up. This is something that doesn’t smell right. I don’t know why they would, they being DHHS, would object to having a committee review who’s investigating them have the opportunity to see what went wrong in those cases. Confidentiality doesn’t float because they’re not going to share that information anyway,” said Diamond.

The Government Oversight Committee will meet again on Sept. 21.

Diamond says if the committee doesn’t challenge DHHS to release the information, it sets a dangerous precedent moving forward.

Speaking of precedent, Diamond says back in 2018 when dealing the the deaths of Kendall Chick and Marissa Kennedy, they were not given the case files, but were given the information they requested about the circumstances leading up to their deaths.

We reached out to DHHS for comment.

We were told that under the advice of the Attorney General’s Office, they would not release the information to the Government Oversight Committee.

However, they would be willing to work with the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability, or OPEGA, the investigative branch of the Committee, to release limited information.

The Office of the Attorney General said, in part:

“OPEGA has the resources and authority to receive, digest, and synthesize, in a confidential setting, the information GOC has expressed interest in.”

DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said:

“Any dissemination of information relating to the criminal cases, intentional or not, could undermine the purpose of those proceedings—to obtain justice for the child victims.”