Mark D (the Scribe)

Jan 152014
 

Tucker implores state to run Union County DSS until it is ‘on solid footing’

By David Perlmutt
dperlmutt@charlotteobserver.com

Posted: Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014

A visibly angry N.C. Sen. Tommy Tucker implored state health officials Tuesday to temporarily intervene in the “day-to-day operations” of Union County’s social services department after a shocking child abuse case that involved one of the agency’s own.

Tucker told state DSS Director Wayne Black at a legislative hearing that his office needs “to dive in” to the county agency while authorities investigate the handcuffing of an 11-year-old boy to the porch of his guardian’s Monroe-area home – with a dead chicken around his neck. Wanda Larson, a county child protective services supervisor who apparently is the boy’s legal guardian, and her longtime boyfriend were arrested in November and indicted a month later on child abuse charges.

Authorities removed the boy and four other adopted children, ages 7 to 14, from the home and placed them in the charge of Davidson County DSS. Larson also was fired by the county.

Tucker, a Waxhaw Republican who represents Union County, was incredulous after Black told a joint committee of lawmakers that his office doesn’t have the authority to intervene in Union County. Black said the county Human Services Department director requested the state investigate its operations, identify any deficiencies and make recommendations. DSS is part of the Human Services Department.

By law, Black said the state could only take over if Union’s human services and DSS directors weren’t cooperative, and they found children in danger.

But Tucker argued that DSS has had considerable changeover in leadership in the past three years and that Union County commissioners dissolved an advisory board to the Human Services Department.

“I don’t know what urgency it takes that the state doesn’t need to dive in and run that agency day to day,” he told Black during the Raleigh hearing. “The board’s been dissolved and you’ve got county commissioners that do not know the system … now taking charge. You’re leaving the county … to police itself and you’re going to take a hands-off approach because there is no state statute?

“Forgive me, sir, this is unbelievable; it’s unconscionable that this could happen.”

Commissioners chairman Frank Aikmus declined to comment.

via Tucker implores state to run Union County DSS until it is ‘on solid footing’ | CharlotteObserver.com.


 

Dec 232013
 

WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

A report reviewed by WBTV shows problems at Union County DSS go deeper than the current child abuse charges against a fired supervisor.

Investigators said Wanda Sue Larson, and her partner Dorian Harper, chained an 11-year-old boy outside with a dead chicken around his neck. Now we’ve learned an audit from almost three years ago showed Union County DSS mishandled seven out of ten randomly chosen cases.

In November 2013, Union County officials asked the state to review all the cases Wanda Sue Larson handled in her ten year career as a child protective supervisor.

But Union County Commissioners said they were not aware that a 2011 report done by the North Carolina Department of Health and Social Services showed that out of 10 cases reviewed by the state only 3 conformed to the state’s standards as being handled properly. One family waited six days for a DSS worker to investigate a serious child abuse complaint.

A reporter with the Associated Press, Mitch Weiss requested the 2011 report from the state. He said in February 2011 Union County had 45 days to put together a plan to explain how DSS would address the problems highlighted in the report.

“Union County put together a plan but they didn’t implement the entire plan,” said Weiss, “So three years later you still had some of these outstanding issues.”

Commissioner Jonathan Thomas said the county is managing the problem.

“How do we fix that? Its going to be the responsibility of the county commissioners from this point forward to make sure we look and see what reports were available to us that we never got and couldn’t have gotten under the previous structure,” said Thomas, “And that we hold staff accountable to make sure we are moving forward. That’s the only way to fix this mess.”

via Report: Union County DSS mishandled cases – WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC.


State report detailed problems with Union County DSS in 2011

MONROE After a Union County child welfare supervisor was charged with handcuffing a boy she had guardianship over to a porch with a dead chicken tied to his neck, county officials sought help reviewing cases handled by her – and the rest of her department.

They asked the state Division of Social Services to review not only Wanda Sue Larson’s cases but how Union County Department of Social Services deals with all child-welfare cases – adoptions, foster care and child protection.

But what some county officials didn’t know was that the state had already found problems with the agency nearly three years earlier as part of a routine review.

via State report detailed problems with Union County DSS in 2011.

Dec 222013
 

Hites named interim manager
Dec. 19, 2013 by Carolyn Steeves

MONROE — Monroe City Council voted unanimously to name Robert Hites, Jr. as interim city manager. He will begin Jan. 6.

Assistant City Manager Greg Demko will serve as acting city manager until Jan. 6, in order to sign contracts and conduct city manager business.

Mayor Pro Tem Dottie Nash said after the vote that Demko did “an excellent” job as interim city manager between Wayne Herron and John D’Agostino, but she felt Demko was more valuable as a finance manager and needs to focus on the budget.

Hites, 61, retired last year after serving as the Statesville city manager for 15 years. He also served as city manager in Lumberton, Southport and Pittsboro.

He will be the third acting city manager this year, but Hites said that does not concern him.

via Hites named interim manager | The Enquirer Journal.


Considering Monroe’s dysfunctional council of recent years, anyone hired is an interim.

Dec 132013
 

By Carolyn Steeves

MONROE — The Union County Board of Education rejected the Union County Board of County Commissioner’s most recent settlement offer Thursday.

The refusal came in the form of a seven-page letter sent Thursday to County Commission Chairman Frank Aikmus, Vice-Chairman Jerry Simpson and the three other county commissioners.

UCPS Board of Education met in closed session Tuesday and decided unanimously to reject the offer.

“Eleven million dollars is a lot of money,” School Board Chairman Richard Yercheck said. He said all nine members of the board wanted to thoughtfully consider the offer made by the county commissioners.

“At the end of the day, we wanted to honor the jury verdict and the fact that we’ve got more than $91 million (worth) of needs,” he said.

Yercheck added that they want to structure the $91 million jury verdict over a period of time so there would not be a hardship on the taxpayers and the county could continue moving forward with its needs without requiring a tax increase.

“The school board is willing to agree to payments made on a schedule that is both aggressive and attainable, so that we can begin to address these needs,” Yercheck wrote in the letter. “I would welcome the opportunity to meet and work with you constructively towards that end.”

Richard Schwartz, the school board’s attorney, will contact Union County Attorney Ligon Bundy to respond in more detail to the settlement offer, according to the letter.

The commissioners asked for a joint meeting between the two boards in a Dec. 2 meeting. No such meeting is yet scheduled.

Whether a joint meeting could be productive would depend on several concerns, Yercheck wrote in the letter. A meeting now to discuss developing the school’s 2014-2015 budget would be premature due to the statutory timeline imposed by the state and the standard budget development process.

Last year, the budget timeline was accelerated and it was neither convenient nor productive for the school board and did not have a positive result, he wrote.

“Given those results last year, we think it would be more productive to maintain the normal budget development schedule, as set by state law, which allows us to receive more reliable information about our needs and obligations and more reliable information from other funding sources, so that we can produce a more informed and better budget,” the letter states. “This will also enable you to gain a better idea of your additional revenues available at the time you receive our budget.”

Yercheck also addressed the desire to promote improved relations between these two boards. It is something the commissioners seem to strongly endorse as a goal, but he questioned their method.

“We can all agree that it is important for the two boards to develop a better working relationship,” he wrote. “However, it would not be fruitful to have a meeting in which school officials are chastised and characterized as irresponsible spenders by commissioners, sometimes reading scripts, which all too frequently has been the case.”

He instead suggested they address outstanding issues regarding the 2013-2014 budget and the jury verdict awarded in the fall.

“The Board of Education has a $91 million money judgment against the county,” Yercheck wrote. “The judgment is a legal obligation, but more than that, it represents the jury’s findings as to the existing needs of the Union County Public Schools. That is an essential fact that seems to be ignored in the County’s responses.”

He added that so far, the county’s main response to the verdict has been to file an appeal.

Yercheck also objected to the perceived characterization of the school board by commissioners.

“All too often, the attitude toward the Board of Education from commissioners is to attack and disrespect the school board,” he wrote. “The Board of Education has been characterized as ‘spending like drunken sailors’ and commissioners have told our citizens in public meetings that you have protected them from ‘tax and spend school board.’’

The “drunken sailor” comment refers to something said by

During the April 16, 2012 commissioners meeting, Commissioner Jonathan Thomas said, “That’s what we need folks, we need a board of education that will work with us, not send out publicity stints (sic) to get people all upset when we’re spending money like drunken sailors in the central office.”

Yercheck’s letter states that both boards are elected and entitled to equal respect and the the school system is not a department of the county.

Yercheck also addressed the settlement offer made Dec. 2, which had a deadline of noon, Dec. 6.

via Union school board rejects deal | The Enquirer Journal.

Dec 092013
 
Mayor's Mug Shot

Mayor’s Mug Shot

From the EJ:

Mayor, board members topic of special Waxhaw meeting

Dec. 07, 2013 Heather Smith

WAXHAW — Mayor Daune Gardner is one of topics of a special called meeting of the Waxhaw Board of Commissioners.

Outgoing Mayor Pro Tem Erin Kirkpatrick called the meeting Monday at 11:30 a.m. in the town hall conference room to talk about several topics. One topic is Gardner’s “office, reimbursement for improperly charged Town credit card expenses, expenses charged to Town Credit Card non-compliant with Travel/Reimbursements and budget.”

Any action would be the last for outgoing members of the board. It comes a day before Waxhaw’s new commissioners take their oaths of office. The timing did not escape Gardner’s notice.

“As a matter of precedent, it is customary for outgoing elected officials to defer items of new business to the incoming members, particularly items that may be controversial,” Gardner wrote in a letter to the editor.

The commission will also discuss two other volunteer town board members, William Hardman and Jason Loseke, who were members of the board of adjustment and parks and recreation committee respectively. Hardman was also an unsuccessful candidate for town commissioner.

Gardner drew criticism in May when she was charged with DWI by a Waxhaw Police officer. As news of her arrest spread, so did allegations she broke town policy by using the town credit card to pay for alcohol. The board of commissioners voted to censure her.

Gardner is still awaiting a decision on her charges. Her next court appearance is Jan. 15, 2014.


The story above doesn’t begin to tell everything. That would take a book.

I wish to point out a couple of inaccuracies in the mayor’s comments. For one, the issue of the mayors credit cards and repayment is old business, and Waxhaw has a long history of the outgoing board conducting business prior to the new term and seating of new members.

From my anonymous sources, this meeting was not ALL the doing of Mayor Pro-Tem Erin Leigh Kirkpatrick, two other commissioners asked for items to be added to the agenda. The latest word is that one of those two have now decided to skip the meeting — We will have to wait an see.

The mayor earned her second DUI last May. She has DEMONSTRATED a pattern of alcohol abuse, irresponsibility and PUBLIC ENDANGERMENT.

HOW many people have had their lives disrupted or destroyed by drunk drivers?

In addition to that, there are unresolved questions concerning the USE of TOWN CREDIT CARDS to buy ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES. In a previous meeting the commissioners voted to remove the mayors travel budget and credit card privileges. The fact that SHE WAS GIVEN THEM TO BEGIN WITH boggles the mind.

Hey WAXHAW are your taxes SO LOW that you can afford to fund MAYOR PARTY anywhere she chooses to go.

TAXPAYERS and CITIZENS deserve better, but to all the in MAYOR EXCUSE SQUAD one note:

If the mayor was a regular citizen, I wouldn’t have a thing say about her behavior, but she is an elected official. Elected OFFICIALS must be held to a higher standard. We can’t allow sympathies or other emotion to cloud the issue.

She has embarrassed the citizens of WAXHAW, making you a laughing stock of the region. Nowhere that your mayor goes can she hide the facts, nor is the ridicule of Waxhaw. Stories about the Mayor’s behavior have been in the Raleigh media and of course the internet.

WE have to regain control of our elected officials, but it starts at the local level. YOU HAVE TO CARE AND DEMAND ONLY THE BEST or you get what they are only too happy to give you.

BY THE WAY, in tomorrow’s regular meeting, YOUR MAYOR has placed on the agenda, requests to restore her travel budget and credit card privileges.

Apparently the mayor has certain expectations of the new board members, taking the OATH OF OFFICE tomorrow night.