AUGUSTA — The Maine Legislature on Monday let stand 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 91-52 vote in the Maine House fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to override LePage’s veto of L.D. 1554, a bill sponsored by Rep. Anne Beebe-Center, D-Rockland.

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 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.

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 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.

DHHS filed a motion in probate court on Sept. 5, 2012, 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 was able to act.

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 on 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 it.

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 also was upset 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. He was 71.

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