The Maine attorney general’s office advised the Mills administration not to give lawmakers direct access to confidential records related to a series of child deaths.
Now, a deputy attorney general in the same office represents lawmakers and prepares a lawsuit seeking access to records.
The sticky situation is not a first for the attorney general’s office, which serves as the advocate for all state agencies as well as the Government Oversight Committee, which has special subpoena power.
Committee members discussed on Wednesday the possibility of hiring an outside attorney to handle his lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services, who would be represented by the attorney general’s office. They feared a conflict of interest for the deputy attorney general assigned to the committee, Christopher Taub.
Taub told committee members they could probably bring in a private lawyer if they wanted — exceptions can be made where conflicts exist — but he said he was confident he could. manage the prosecution without the need for additional resources from his office. He said there had been a “wall” established within the AG’s office preventing him from discussing this case with other attorneys in the office.
Taub said he would file written arguments on behalf of the committee, the AG’s office would file a competing brief on behalf of DHHS, and then a judge could hear the arguments in court before issuing a ruling.
Taub cited a 1989 Supreme Judicial Court of Maine decision acknowledging that the AG’s office can sometimes be in conflict with itself, but noting that it has enough attorneys to handle such situations. And Taub assured committee members that he was fully capable of handling the matter independently of the office.