Saturday, March 8, 2014
By Steve Mistler firstname.lastname@example.org
The state’s attorney general demanded Wednesday that the LePage administration publicly release a $925,000, taxpayer-funded study of Maine’s Medicaid program.
Maine Attorney General Janet Mills has demanded that Gov. Paul LePage release a taxpayer-funded study of Medicaid.
Left: Courtesy state of Maine; Right: Staff File Photo
The Medicaid report was written by the Alexander Group, led by Gary Alexander, a former human services commissioner in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.
Staff File Photo
Attorney General Janet Mills, a Democrat, said the administration, which has acknowledged that it received the study on Dec. 16, is violating the state’s Freedom of Access Act by not making the document public.
Media outlets, including the Portland Press Herald, have requested copies of the study by the Alexander Group through the right-to-know law. Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, told reporters in late December that he had seen the study and would release it on Jan. 6.
On Monday, Jan. 6, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services said the study would not be released that day. The administration has not given a reason for withholding it, as the Freedom of Access Act requires.
“I must respectfully join the chorus of voices demanding the immediate release of the so-called Alexander report,” Mills wrote in a letter Wednesday to the administration. “I understand that release of this document was first requested in early December when the contract first was publicized. Mr. Alexander was required to file a report with the state December 1st. Reportedly your office received this report on December 16. Twenty-two days have passed since that time.”
In response, LePage said reporters could tell Mills “to sue me,” The Associated Press reported.
Mills cited news reports in which the administration said the report is complex and requires review by state officials before being made public.
“Reliance on such troublesome criteria could result in a court finding that you have acted in bad faith in resisting disclosure, with the attendant legal consequences of such a finding,” Mills wrote.
The Freedom of Access Act says a court “may award reasonable attorney’s fees and litigation expenses” to a plaintiff in a right-to-know case that can show “the refusal or illegal action was committed in bad faith.”
Mills concluded, “As the chief law enforcement officer for the state and as a chief advisor on Freedom of Access issues, I must insist that you release this report to all who request it immediately.”
Tim Feeley, a spokesman for Mills, said her letter was prompted by a complaint filed by the Sun Journal of Lewiston with the attorney general’s public access ombudsman. Asked if Mills is prepared to take additional action, Feeley said the letter “spoke for itself” and the attorney general assumes “that the governor will make public records public.”
REPORT RESULTS, RELEASE DELAYED
Page 11 of the contract that the state signed with the Alexander Group says that documents turned over to the DHHS by the Alexander Group are public and subject to the Freedom of Access Act.
The Medicaid feasibility portion of the study, the first installment, was due Dec. 1 but the Alexander Group missed that deadline, which administration officials subsequently described as a “target date.”
The DHHS had reserved the State House Welcome Center for a media event to be held Tuesday, presumably for the presentation of the study. But on Monday, the event was rescheduled for Friday. Then it disappeared from the State House calendar.
Adrienne Bennett, the governor’s press secretary, said Monday that there is a new location for the presentation. She wouldn’t identify the location or confirm that the event will be a presentation of the study. Asked when the study will be released, she said “soon.”
The administration has rejected numerous media inquiries and Freedom of Access Act requests, even though the law prohibits any public body from withholding public documents without citing a specific exemption in Maine law, which the administration has not done.
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