A twisted turn in the CDC document-shredding scandal

Stay with me here, this is going to be twisted.

We have lawmakers using their power to compel state employees to testify before a legislative committee, which in turn is causing all involved (except lawmakers) to retain lawyers to defend their rights to a fair trial in court, whilst forcing them to appear before the Legislature, which turn will compromise their rights to justice. Now that everyone is lawyered up, the legal time is spinning faster than your electric meter.

Got a headache yet? Let me explain.

An employee at the Maine Center for Disease Control claimed she was ordered to shred documents in violation of state law. I could regale you with all the political intrigue, such as which nonprofit won and lost from this bureaucratic decision-making about the tobacco settlement fund disbursements. A topic for another day.

What ensued was a termination, a lawsuit and new plaintiffs and new defendants being added to said lawsuit just days ago. Did I mention that everyone has lawyered up? Here’s where this saga becomes a migraine.

The members of the oversight committee want the accused state employees to answer questions before they have their day in court. A few days ago, the lawyers formally requested that if the Legislature’s oversight committee was intent on proceeding, then it should allow state employees to testify before the committee in a closed-door executive session.

State employees should have the same rights to a fair judicial process as you or I would have. Lawmakers should simply let the judicial process deliver the facts they seek.

On one day, the lawyers must plan for the court case, and the next day they must prep for the legislative committee. In which setting will there be justice? Having state employees testify before a legislative committee enables legislators to flex their muscle and jeopardizes the court process.

It seems to me that giving the people involved a chance to reduce their legal fees and focus their attention on answering the charges against them — in court — is not too much for the Legislature to grant.

Posted by Phil Harriman