Residents criticize third-party review decision
Supervisors approved Springsted Inc. to conduct management evaluation
By Ben Orcutt — email@example.com
FRONT ROYAL — Despite the unanimous decision of the Warren County Board of Supervisors to have an outside company perform a management review of the Department of Social Services, some of the agency’s harshest critics are skeptical about the process.
The supervisors voted Tuesday to authorize County Administrator Douglas P. Stanley to sign a contract with Minnesota-based Springsted Inc., which has an office in Richmond, to conduct an organizational management study of the agency at a cost not to exceed $9,975, plus expenses.
The study will help the county evaluate management and operating policies of the department to determine if it is adhering to established guidelines and whether any improvements are needed.
Stanley said the process will involve conducting confidential interviews with current employees and former workers who have left within the past 36 months. Alleged cases of mismanagement within the department also will be reviewed.
Confidential surveys will be given to the agency’s staff to gather information on the administration of internal policies. Springsted will look to begin its study by June 15 and finish it by the end of August.
Department of Social Services Director Ronald L. King, who is in his 10th year at the helm of the agency, said Friday that he and the department will cooperate fully with the review.
“We welcome the opportunity to work with the board of supervisors during this process,” King said. “We have outstanding employees here at the Department of Social Services and this is a wonderful department with a professional team who takes pride in working with and helping the citizens of Warren County. I am very proud of our staff and the hard work they do for our community. This department is open to anything that would provide for a continual process of improvement.”
However, several county residents who have been critical of the agency expressed skepticism about the study in e-mails on Thursday.
“I’m curious as to the legalities of this study,” said Judith McClosky, a former Department of Social Services fraud investigator who has a lawsuit pending against King and the agency for wrongful termination. “If the BOS does not control this agency, how can they make this agency go through an independent study? Can DSS just simply say, NO? Why were they even selected to conduct this study? You have to look at who suggested this company to the BOS and why.”
Outspoken community activist William “Bill” Pierceall took Shenandoah District Supervisor Richard H. “Dick” Traczyk and Happy Creek Supervisor Tony F. Carter to task for being reluctant to go along with the independent review of the agency.
“The red-faced-bulging-veined resistance by Traczyk and Carter to an independent third party forensic financial audit of DSS was stubborn stonewalling,” Pierceall said. “There comes a point when stubbornness is not leadership; it is stupidity fostered by political considerations trumping principle. Is this the standard of behavior we now tolerate as the norm from our local politicians?
“I believe the Springsted investigation will uncover enough new information concerning the mishandling of County funds that it will lead to an investigation by the Justice Department and the Virginia State Police to examine if Federal and State funds were manipulated in similar fashion.”
Linda B. Selover, a local attorney who has a lawsuit pending against King and DSS Board of Directors Chairwoman Prudence B. Mathews for alleged violations of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, spoke in a similar vein.
“Will Springsted begin investigaating the 2007 Special Grand Jury findings?” she said in her e-mail. “Are the legal authorities/politicians committed to further investigation if Springsted’s ‘audit’ confirms the 2007 Special Grand Jury findings? Are the legal authorities/politicians committed to ensuring that corrective action is taken if evidence of systemic failure is gleaned? Are the legal authorities/politicians committed to implementing and enforcing new policies and procedures (checks and balances) if (when) problems are identified?”