Representative Charlotte Warren and Dems Ambush Commissioner Liberty

By: Ronda Snyder

On Wednesday, September 15, 2021, a Zoom meeting was scheduled for 2 pm between Commissioner Randall Liberty of the Department of Corrections and Co-chairs of the Criminal Justice Committee, Representative Charlotte Warren (D-Hallowell) and Senator Susan Deschambault (D-York) to discuss a full committee meeting regarding Long Creek Youth Development Center and the issues surrounding an August 2, 2021 incident at Long Creek.

The full meeting on September 24, 2021 will consist of all members of the Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety, Commissioner Liberty, Commissioner Lambrew of the Department of Health and Human Services and representatives of the department designated by the commissioner; Executive Director Kim Moody or a representative of Disability Rights Maine designated by Kim Moody; and Executive Director Mark Soler representing the Center for Children’s Law and Policy.   A zoom meeting solely between the Co-Chairs and Commissioner Liberty to set up the September 24 meeting would have been perfectly acceptable and that was the plan until Representative Charlotte Warren made a last minute change to the meeting parameters.

Multiple sources report that Representative Charlotte Warren (unbeknownst to Senator Deschambault or Commissioner Liberty) changed the meeting time from 2 pm to 1:30 pm which made Senator Deschambault 30 minutes late to the Zoom meeting because of previous commitments. Additionally, sources indicate that Representative Charlotte Warren took it upon herself to invite democrat members of the Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety to attend the meeting. However, NO republican members of the committee were notified or invited to the September 15 zoom meeting with Commissioner Liberty. Again, this meeting was supposed to be only for the purpose of setting up a Zoom meeting on September 24, 2021 to discuss Long Creek Youth Development Center nor was the public made aware of this meeting. State Representatives who have spoken with Charlotte Warren indicate she told them that Republicans weren’t invited because it would THEN become an illegal meeting. As such, only democrats were briefed on the events and issues at Long Creek Rehabilitation Center, Commissioner Liberty was blindsided by the additional democrats who attended the meeting and there was no transparency as the public was not made aware of what transpired on the Zoom meeting.

On September 17, 2021, an email for the September 24, 2021 Zoom meeting with notice of the meeting and request for permission for said Zoom meeting from Speaker of the House Ryan Fecteau and Senate President Troy Jackson was emailed by Jane Orberton of the Office of Policy and Legal Analysis. See below:

A telephone call to Jane Orbeton from the Office of Policy and Legal Analysis this morning, confirmed that the above email contains the proper procedure and policy to hold a committee meeting via Zoom (ie NOTICE, PERMISSION AND AVAILABLITY FOR PUBLIC VIEWING). When asked whether this same procedure was followed for the September 15, 2021 meeting Orbeton told Maine Journal News that she was “unsure at what point a meeting becomes official.”

We reached out to several democrats who were invited to the September 15 meeting by Representative Warren. One legislator, Grayson Lookner didn’t like our questions. MJN asked Lookner whether he attended the September 15 meeting and who invited him. Lookner shouted “You are more worried about who was invited to the meeting rather than prone restraint was used on teens AND YOU CAN QUOTE ME ON THAT.” Lookner is apparently a mind reader and assumes what MJN is worried about. After this writer chuckled at his explosive response, I explained that we can ALSO be concerned about dirty politics in Maine. We would have asked more questions but Lookner hung up on me in a huff (Author’s note: I imagined the sanctimonious Lookner stomping his foot when he smashed the end call button in his self-righteous indignation).

It’s likely that Warren will make excuses for the ambush of Commissioner Liberty but that doesn’t change that this meeting was originally only supposed to be a discussion only between Commissioner Liberty and the Co-Chairs of the Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety to set up the September 24, 2021 meeting. Instead, committee democrats, particularly Portland democrats (Reps. Victoria Morales, Lois Rickett and Grayson Lookner), lead by Charlotte Warren blindsided Commissioner Liberty, raked him over the coals and took him to task with regard to Long Creek Youth Rehabilitation Center and the recent issues surrounding the center. Again, this meeting wasn’t transparent or available to the public and no republicans were allowed to attend the September 15 meeting. These Portland democrats have, by all accounts, wanted to see Long Creek closed and shuttered for quite some time.

The September 24, 2021 meeting, if approved by Speaker Fecteau and Senate President Troy Jackson will be transparent to the public (unlike the September 15 meeting) and can be viewed on the Legislature’s YouTube channel by the public.

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