New Florida Health Chief Was Once Tied to Record-Shredding Scandal

Ex-Maine Commissioner of Health and Human Services Mary Mayhew
Maine DHHS via YouTube
Ex-Maine Commissioner of Health and Human Services Mary Mayhew
Mary "Mayhem" Mayhew, Florida's new Medicaid chief, was accused of all kinds of misdeeds while running Maine's Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). She was repeatedly sued and fined for failing to follow various rules while working under then-Governor Paul LePage. Yesterday, New Times described a scathing 2017 federal audit stating that Mayhew's DHHS failed to investigate the deaths of 133 disabled Medicaid recipients and also did not report hundreds of cases of sexual assault of the disabled to law enforcement.

Mayhew was also accused of downright shady dealings while running Maine's health services. A 2013 state audit found workers at the Maine Center for Disease Control (CDC) shredded public records tied to programs applying for $4.7 million in public-health grants. The same audit discovered a host of other problems with that  grant program, including funding deals that seemingly "materialized out of nowhere." It said the "integrity and credibility" of awards was in question and that some of the grant-awards were likely tainted by "intentional manipulation."

Auditors found crucial documents showing how various grant bidders "scored" in the application process had been shredded and/or tossed in recycling bins. In March 2014, the Maine CDC's deputy director, Christine Zukas, informed an oversight board that she told Mayhew about the plan to destroy the documents and that the director had "basically agreed" with the plan.

“I said to the commissioner, ‘We have a final product; we will not be keeping the previous spreadsheets,'” Zukas told Maine's Government Oversight Committee on March 14 of that year.

One month after Zuka's testimony, Mayhew denied knowing anything about the plan to destroy public documents.  “I did not direct, authorize, acknowledge the destruction of any documents,” Mayhew told the Lewiston Sun-Journal editorial board.

In February 2015, Mayhew fired the head of the Maine CDC, Sheila Pinette, who had been directly implicated in the shredding scheme. Mayhew later told Maine reporters the shredding constituted a "violation of departmental policy," but she did not take personal responsibility for the incident.

Two women claimed they were fired for reporting the shredding scheme to investigators: They sued the state, which paid out a $250,000 settlement in February 2015. No state employees appear to have been charged criminally, however, and Mayhew escaped relatively unscathed before her term ended in 2017. She then tried to run for governor in 2018 but, perhaps due to her seemingly never-ending list of scandals, got clobbered in the Republican primary. She received just 13.8 percent of the party vote.

But Mayhew continued to leverage her connections for high-powered jobs. In October 2018, President Donald Trump appointed her to run the nation's Medicaid program, a move that health-justice advocates called "horrifying." Three months later, she quit to work for DeSantis.

It is unclear whether DeSantis was aware of Mayhew's document-shredding or disabled-death scandals before he appointed her. Spokespeople for the governor did not respond to multiple messages from New Times. This post will be updated when they call back.