September 16, 2019

Hold DHS accountable

During the past days we have witnessed a “march” for a new level of accountability at the Department of Human Services. We have all heard the horror stories. More than $100 million has been lost due to incompetence (and lack of accountability). Anyone in the accounting department of any private business doing work like that would be walking the streets seeking a job. But not at DHS. Families have been shattered by incompetent decisions. But the decision makers are still working.

The real problem is the wall of confidentiality that has existed forever around DHS. Any attempt to find out what is going on there is met by: “Sorry, that information is confidential.” I would suggest it is not the family and child case records that they are as concerned about half as much as it is the records of the decisions made and why. They want no one to ever see into that part of their operation.

The fact that DHS operates in secrecy should frighten all of us. The charge that no one outside DHS can be entrusted with this kind of information is absurd. In hundreds of towns and cities and school districts around the state thousands of lay people (town officials) are entrusted with confidential information every day as part of their jobs.

I propose that we tear this wall down. I suggest a five- or six- member citizen review board made up of people from all walks of life, charged with reviewing policies and any and all decisions made by DHS on a continuing basis as they see the need. There should be a system for outside complaints similar to the Maine Human Rights Commission.

Every DHS employee should know that his work would be subject to review at any time and that he will be held accountable for it. Those too incompetent to perform the work, or found using their position to punish others, should be immediately removed.

For the first time in my memory maybe true accountability would exist at DHS. It is shameful and un-American for any agency of the government to operate in total secrecy like this one has for far too long.

Nathan Pitts


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