State, Former N.H. DHHS Employee Reach $120K Partial Settlement In Whistleblower Lawsuit
The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services has reached a $120,000 settlement with a former employee over allegations she was retaliated against for publicly criticizing the state's child protective services.
Anna Carrigan, a former health department employee, says she was reprimanded at work and denied privileges she was previously afforded after she shared publicly her concerns about the state's handling of child abuse and neglect cases.
The state denies any wrongdoing and the settlement includes no admission of fault. In a written statement, Health Commissioner Lori Shibinette declined to comment on the specifics of Carrigan’s case.
“Our team is compassionate, dedicated and professional,” wrote Shibinette, “therefore, we do not comment on the separation of employment of a former team member. We wish Ms. Carrigan well in her future endeavors.”
Under the terms of the settlement, Carrigan is barred from seeking or accepting employment with the state of New Hampshire.
Carrigan, whose advocacy on issues of children protection has grown to include the founding of a non-profit and an organized march on the State House lawn, said she wishes her concerns were taken more seriously within the department while she was still employed there.
“It's not normal for children to die, especially under the protection of the agency tasked with protecting them. That is insane. And it needs to continue to have the alarm sounded on,” said Carrigan, referring to recent deaths of children who were known to the state Division for Children, Youth and Families.
Carrigan claims state officials are ignoring evidence when they present a positive image of the Division for Children, Youth and Families, as when Gov. Chris Sununu recently issued a press release touting a reduction in the number of overdue assessments. DCYF has struggled for years with high caseload volumes, inadequate staffing, and other issues identified in official reviews and by local journalists.
“The telling and the narrative and the tales of the professionals and the families who are interacting with the system is that it's worse than ever,” said Carrigan.
The settlement addresses only a portion of a lawsuit filed by Carrigan in February. The remainder of the suit seeks an injunction that would force the state to make reforms at DCYF.