AUGUSTA, Maine — A legislative committee voted Friday to appeal a judge's conclusion that lawmakers aren't entitled to full investigative files on four child deaths that spurred further child welfare reforms.
The Maine Legislature's Government Oversight Committee voted 6-4 to appeal to seek the files from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services in hopes of finding ways to prevent future tragedies.
Rep. Amy Arata, a Republican from New Gloucester, said it's important to press for the documents through the courts and through legislation.
“I want to show the public how seriously we take this, and that sense of urgency that we have. I want to be very clear on that,” she said.
Last month, a Superior Court justice concluded that the panel does not have legal standing, agreeing with the Maine DHHS, which refused to provide the records to the committee.
The DHHS shared the files with the Legislature’s watchdog, the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability. It contended it couldn't legally share them with lawmakers.
The committee members said the refusal of the DHHS to comply with their subpoena violated the separation of powers by interfering with legislative oversight of an agency that's part of the executive branch.
The death of 3-year-old Maddox Williams in Stockton Springs and three other children in the summer of 2021 drew statewide attention — and reform efforts by state lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Janet Mills.