BANGOR — A Northport couple whose parental rights to their adopted son were terminated in 2007 have filed a 15-count lawsuit in federal court.

Russ and Ellie Handler claim their parental rights were wrongly terminated after a Department of Health and Human Services investigation that they allege was riddled with misconduct, negligence and violations of their civil rights, according to information provided Tuesday morning by the Handlers.

In September Russ, who formerly worked at MBNA in Belfast, vowed, “It’s not going to be your average complaint. It’s going to blow the doors off the building in Augusta.”

Bangor attorneys Joseph Baldacci and Eric Mehnert represent the Handlers.

Defendants in the suit are DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew, who succeeded former Commissioner Brenda Harvey; Debra Potter, Claudia Kjer, Martin Smith and Christine Theriault, all DHHS employees; and then Lt. Bryant White and Bob Tiner, employees of the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office.

The Handlers adopted David in 1999 after Elizabeth R. Spiess of the Maine Adoption Placement Service conducted a home study on the couple..

In 2007, the Handlers’ parental rights were terminated amid concerns their marriage was, according to court documents, “severely afflicted by domestic violence perpetrated by the father against the mother” and that David was both a witness to and victim of domestic violence.

The Handlers assert that state employees systematically violated Ellie’s civil rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act because they failed to acknowledge and address her mental-health issues. Ellie is a former physician.

The suit further alleges that state officials manufactured false evidence to cast Russ as a danger to his wife and child, and resorted to life-threatening harassment while he was in the custody of the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office.

The suit also alleges a possible breach of fiduciary duty on the part of the state. The Handlers assert the state accepted payment of Social Security benefits for David totaling more than $80,000, but that despite requests to the Attorney General, there has been no accounting of the funds.

The Handlers, in the release, state their goal is to revisit the termination of their parental rights and to obtain confirmation that David is well and receiving financial proceeds from Social Security.

This story will be updated.

Beth Staples — 861-9252
[email protected]


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