Legislators refuse to allow lawsuit against state for Rockland man whose house was sold, second home damaged, cat killed

By Stephen Betts | Jul 09, 2018
Photo by: William Dean family William Dean was a musical savant.

Augusta — The Maine Legislature failed Monday, July 9, to override a veto by Gov. Paul LePage of a bill that would have allowed a lawsuit to be refiled by the family of a man whose Owls Head house was sold for well below its value, a second home damaged, and his cat euthanized at the state's direction while he was in a psychiatric hospital.

The Maine House voted 91-52 to override LePage's veto of LD 1554, a bill sponsored by Democratic Rep. Pinny Beebe-Center of Rockland. The 91 yes votes, however, fell short of the two-thirds majority necessary to override the veto.

The bill would have allowed Claire Dean Perry and the estate of William Dean to file a lawsuit with any damages to be paid out by the surety obtained by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled in March 2017 that the state was immune from liability for selling the waterfront house in Owls Head for well below its value, allowing his Rockland home to fall into disrepair, selling off his personal belongings, and euthanizing his cat.

The immunity can be waived if the Legislature votes to allow a suit to proceed.

The House and Senate had both voted to approve the legislation, but LePage vetoed it.

In his July 3 veto message, LePage said DHHS in its role as public guardian for mentally ill or elderly people, "must use its reasonable judgment to make various, often time-sensitive, personal and financial decisions."

The governor said the bill was a blatant attempt to change the rules in the middle of the game.

Voting to override the veto were Reps. Beebe-Center; Owen Casas, an independent from Rockport; John Spear, D-South Thomaston; and Walter Kumiega III, D-Deer Isle.

Rep. Paula Sutton, a Republican from Warren, voted to uphold the governor's veto. Rep. Abden Simmons, R-Waldoboro, was absent from the vote.

Dean suffered from mental health issues throughout his life. Among other things, he had Asperger’s syndrome, which made it difficult for him to interact socially with other people. After his mother died, Dean experienced a mental health crisis and was admitted to the Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center in Bangor in May 2012.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services filed a motion Sept. 5, 2012, in probate court seeking to be named his conservator and guardian.

Dean’s cousin Pamela Vose had offered to be conservator and asked that the state not appoint anyone else until she got back to them.

Without letting Vose know, however, the state filed for conservatorship, contending there was “no suitable private party available and willing to assume such responsibilities.” A probate judge in Penobscot County approved the temporary appointment of DHHS as conservator and guardian Sept. 6, 2012.

Before the end of the year, the state put Dean's Owls Head cottage and the Rockland family home up for sale, citing tax liens that needed to be paid, as well as other bills.

In January 2013, the waterfront cottage in Owls Head was sold for $205,000, even though the town had the property — 1 acre with 100 feet of ocean frontage as well as the two-story 1,000-square-foot cottage — assessed for tax purposes at $476,840. The Maine Attorney General’s Office, which represented DHHS in the lawsuits, argued the Owls Head property was not worth the taxable value because of problems with septic and water systems and because it was located next to a property that was in deplorable condition.

According to court records, the state moved up the sale date of the Owls Head property by one day after the family found out about the sale and informed DHHS it would be seeking a court injunction to stop the sale.

The state also tried to sell the Rockland home on Broadway, but a pipe broke during the winter when there was no heat and caused major flooding, which then led to an outbreak of mold throughout the home, making it uninhabitable.

In an October 2015 interview, Dean said the state’s decision to euthanize his longtime companion, a 10-year-old Himalayan cat named Caterpillar, bothered him the most. Dean said he was also upset that the state sold his 2000 Cadillac Eldorado. The car was sold for $385, even though the book value was as much as $5,600.

After Dean was released from Dorothea Dix, he rented one apartment and then another in Rockland.

Dean died in October 2016 at the age of 71.

Comments (9)
Posted by: Ben and Leslie Fuller | Jul 13, 2018 07:43

Mean spirited, lawyering and bureacracy at its worst. The DHHS decision, the probate judge, and the veto. And there is no downside to being that way. Is there any wonder that people have taken to public shaming officials? The only way that you can get their attention is throw them out and make it personally uncomfortable for them. Perhaps Mr Betts could get us the names of those that voted not to override. They need public shaming.


Posted by: Janet Ruth Dearborn | Jul 10, 2018 12:59

Well, a word to the wise: get your affairs in order if you fear any exposure of this nature. DHHS exceeded their authority in a very malicious and uncaring way. And, perhaps a little due dilligence to locate a realtive? This is one of the most disgusting examples of abuse of power I have ever heard of, but, unfortunately, I am sure there are many more. Minimally, the poor cat could have been taken to a shelter, of course, like all animal lovers Mr. Dean was rightfully upset to learn of his cat's euthanasia.


Actually, as residents we are the" state". At this juncture, all the internal problems of DHHS fall on deaf ears. They should be adequately staffed with professionals who have more than an inkling about what the department's mandates should be.  LePage's Dickenesque approach to child welfare and social problems has created beign neglect on a state level. Holding people accountable  through public hearings would demystify DHHS. Right after that, or before, the laws should be changed to reflect appropriate punishment for abuse to women and children.


As human beings, we need to protect those who cannot protect themselves.

Posted by: Margie Gerrish | Jul 10, 2018 12:19

Is this the same Maine Dept of Health and Human Services that received numerous calls about a child who was being beaten by her parents and never in school, then finally died?  Is it the same dept. that let millions of $ of Maine Care funds be used for people who didn't qualify for Maine Care any longer?

And don't get me started on killing an innocent animal!!!

Time to clean house of those in charge at DHHS and those who let this heinous act stand.

Posted by: BETSY A FEYLER | Jul 10, 2018 09:54

Well that whole deal Sucks


Posted by: ananur forma | Jul 10, 2018 08:46

Unfair, is an understatement. Very sad situation. Unsettling what our so called, "representatives," decide.Boooooooo

Posted by: Stephen Betts | Jul 10, 2018 06:17

Only one Knox County Republican representative voted against the bill. When I do legislative roll calls stories, I email the legislators asking for their reasons for voting. I have yet to hear back from the opponent.

Posted by: Edwin E Ecker | Jul 10, 2018 04:21

The Dean family and it's representatives need to have their day in court in this matter and the Legislature needs to support their wishes and allow a lawsuit to go forward !

Put ourselves in the Deans' position and tell me that the DHHS actions were just and fair !

Posted by: Philip J McElhaney | Jul 10, 2018 04:02

And the two local Republican representatives voted no. I would enjoy reading about the reasons why they voted no, Mr. Betts.

Posted by: CHRIS & CINDY MUDGETT | Jul 09, 2018 21:16

It's very obvious the state does whatever they want. Some people got some great deals off this poor man's property. So sad.



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