Department chief up for review after 'rough' 2006

Date: 2007-01-03

HEATHER CHAPIN-FOWLER

Meanwhile, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services continues to "work with" the local agency to "address areas of noncompliance" found during an evaluation last year through the state's Child Protection Oversight program, according to Dennis Evans of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

"It was a rough year," Dumbeck said. "We had some high profile cases in court. Those things aren't necessarily the most fun to deal with but, I think overall, the agency handled those things very well. And, I hope we don't have a 2007 that we would be dealing with cases like that or situations like that, but we'll deal with them if we encounter them."

He added that he was speaking in reference to the child abuse case against Michael and Sharen Gravelle, which wrapped up last month with the couple being convicted by a jury of endangering children and abusing children concerning the care and treatment of their former 11 adopted children.

The placement of many of the children was supervised by Huron County Department of Job and Family Services, and the agency removed the youngsters from the Gravelles in September 2005.

State adoption laws and supervision guidelines were changed as a result of a review of the Gravelle case last year, and the agency came under criticism by the county prosecutor during the criminal case.

The state now requires more supervision of the adopted family, including a more intense screening process before being approved for adoption of more than five children in one home.

In a case where more than five children may be adopted into one home, a special assessment of the parents' ability to handle the responsibility of the children is now required.

The new law also provides for the creation of a centralized computer registry of state adoptions.

Huron County Prosecutor Russ Leffler told jurors in his closing arguments during the Gravelle trial that there were obvious problems in the system as to regular and frequent supervision of the family by the county Department of Job and Family Services.

The department is also defending itself in a civil lawsuit filed Dec. 15, 2004. The county department, county commissioners and Paul Efaw are being sued for placing an 11-year-old girl in a home where she was stabbed to death by Efaw, her foster father. The child, Connre Dixon, was placed in the foster home under supervision of the county department, which continued supervision of the placement until her death in October 2004.

The matter is scheduled for jury trial on March 20, according to Huron County Common Pleas Court records.

Last year, an allegation of sexual harassment was filed by an employee against Dumbeck, according to the Huron County commissioners.

The matter remains unresolved, and details about the complaint have not been released, the commissioners said.

Most recently, the Norwalk Police Department said it twice has had to go to the home of an elderly couple who were living in unsanitary conditions. Police reported the couple's circumstances to the department's division of Adult Protective Services.

Dumbeck has refused to comment as to what, if any, action was taken after the elderly man was stricken with heat stroke in a home where temperatures raged near 150 degrees in May and the house was unsanitary. Police also found the couple unconscious and living in similar conditions last month and contacted the department.

Another problem last year included the sale of old Job and Family Services computers, which ended up in private hands, despite having confidential information on their hard drives.

Family services employees were sent to clear the computers after the matter was brought to Dumbeck's attention, he said at the time.

No changes in staff were made following the computer incident, nor the Gravelle investigation, Dumbeck said yesterday.

Dumbeck serves at the pleasure of the county commissioners, said Commissioner Mike Adelman.

The commissioners hired Dumbeck in May 2004 when the previous director retired. The commissioners then were Adelman and former commissioners Terry Boose and Ardeth Chupp.

Dumbeck is set to be evaluated near the anniversary of his appointment, which will take place in April or May, said Commission President Gary Bauer.

"I'm not really feeling any which way, I guess," Dumbeck said of the upcoming evaluation. Dumbeck said he wasn't aware of when the evaluation will be.

"It's a good time for good conversation of what I can do better and things that they like that I'm doing," Dumbeck said.

In 2005, Dumbeck received 101 points out of 150 on his annual review, according to the document which was signed only by Adleman. In 2006, he received 126 points out of a possible 155 points, according to his evaluation, signed by Bauer, Adelman and Commissioner Ralph Fegley.

The areas of evaluation included "job knowledge; decision making and problem solving; organization and planning ability; project management; innovation; communication; supervision and community relations," according to the document.

The evaluation was graded on a scale of one to five with five being the highest mark possible. Dumbeck received all fours and fives, according to the document.

There were only two comments noted by the commissioners on the 2006 evaluation under the area of communication and job knowledge. "Communication is extremely important, need to be continually aware of this importance," and "growth into job is important," were noted.

Adelman, Fegley and Bauer said last month they are satisfied with Dumbeck's growth into his job, but each had "questions" about the elderly couple's case.

The ODJFS will release the report on its evaluation of the agency within the next few days, said Evans. Details about when the evaluation was conducted and how long the department has to meet compliance deadlines weren't available last night.

The HCJFS was evaluated as part of a routine schedule where a sampling of cases is reviewed to ensure federal requirements are being met. "As a result of that there was a corrective action plan that was developed to correct certain findings," said Evans adding that the findings weren't available last night.

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