Mary Mayhew, commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services, smiles as the crowd applauds in Portland on July 29, 2014, where she was honored by the conservative think tank Maine Heritage Policy Center. Credit: Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Commenters had a lot to say about a Maine Focus story published Thursday in which writer Matthew Stone revealed that the Maine Department of Health and Human Services has used at least $7.8 million in federal money in ways that run afoul of the law.

Specifically, it took the money from one program intended to help low-income families with children and put it toward services that support adults who are elderly or disabled.

As Liz Schott, a lawyer and senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said: “Are they using the money for families with children under 200 percent of poverty? And if so, that’s legal. And if not, it’s not.”

After the BDN asked how DHHS was using funding from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, it revised its required documents to show it had been spending the federal money for allowable purposes.

But the department didn’t fully account for how it had actually been spending the money. And its revised documents contradicted multiple public statements DHHS had made about its plans for spending TANF funds.

Most commenters weren’t buying it:

“While he is complaining about ‘sugary foods’ and welfare fraud he and his DHHS Commissioner are committing welfare fraud at an unheard of level in our state,” said commenter Dave N. Ellen.

“Exactly. If I lie to the feds, or the state, and get caught, I’m looking at fines and, or, jail time. Fraud at this level, while abhorrent, is essentially ‘too big to fail,’” wrote Commutah.

“Republicans pitting one group of poor people against another,” continued Albert Ross. Then this zinger: “Lepage wanted to give $5 million to a bankrupt ferry boat to Canada but he has a fit if a poor child gets some food.”

Others offered up some potential consequences:

“They didn’t have a firm case for impeachment. They may now,” said Bill Stuart.

“Is it impeachment time yet?” echoed Frank.

“Let’s hope Janet Mills is reading it and takes LePage and his lackeys to court,” followed up honey777.

There was a bit of support for LePage:

“That monster had the audacity to deflect funds over to elderly people who have nothing to eat except cat food. Then he gives them amenities like in home healthcare, assistance with laundry, etc. This evil villan (sic) must be stopped. Thinking he can direct funds to the most impoverished generation of people. Not on my watch! Little Johnny isn’t going to go without his cash benefits,” wrote Hermon 36.

Then a swift rebuttal:

“If we need to put more funding into elder care, let’s absolutely do that. But improperly allocating other funds isn’t the way to do it,” said Engaged Reader.

And another: “The money was granted to help low income children. If not directly through TANF distribution, then in some other appropriate way. Using it on services and aid for the elderly and disabled does not accomplish that (unless there are also children in those households),” said Cledus Snow.

And finally some consensus:

“Your Illogical Fallacy is Ancedotal,” said Sherlock, as part of a longer thread.

“Why didn’t you capitalize ‘is’?” wrote Hermon36.

“My middle finger got tired,” Sherlock shot back.

Hermon36 could have gotten ruffled but, instead, acknowledged the comeback gem. “That was pretty good. Haha,” he wrote.

Who says commenters can’t agree?