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I-Team: Lawmaker requests investigation into Maine Dept. of Labor

A state lawmaker is requesting an investigation into the Maine Department of Labor and Office of Information Technology, related to the roll-out of a new, online unemployment system.

AUGUSTA (WGME) -- A state lawmaker is requesting an investigation into the Maine Department of Labor and Office of Information Technology, related to the roll-out of a new, online unemployment system.

"We need to know the truth," said Rep. Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford.

Fecteau said he's one of many legislators who have been flooded with calls and messages from Mainers who are struggling to use the state's new unemployment system, ReEmployME.

"We don't know how many claimants tried to get through to the system, were having issues, tried to get a hold of someone on the phones and they were unable to file a claim at all," said Fecteau.

As chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development, he's now calling for an investigation by the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability, or OPEGA.

In a letter requesting the inquiry, Fecteau said the system was launched before it was ready, with more than 200 defects later identified.

He also points to allegations of misconduct made by whistleblowers, some of which were shared with Sen. Shenna Bellows, D-Manchester.

She said a confidential memo provided by a former employee alleges senior managers destroyed documents from claimants requesting help.

"So clearly something's going on," she said. "Something's clearly wrong."

CBS 13 requested an on-camera interview with the Department of Labor, but a spokesperson said because of the seriousness of the allegations, they are only answering questions in writing.

In a five-page memo to lawmakers released on Thursday, Commissioner John Butera acknowledges the rollout of the new system was rocky, but denied any wrongdoing. He said in part, "We should be working toward the next phase of development, instead, we have diverted a substantial amount of resources and energy refuting unsubstantiated allegations generated by legislators and the media."

The Government Oversight Committee is expected to decide whether to order the investigation at its meeting on Friday morning.

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