Top officials in 'caged kids' case tenders resignation

Date: 2007-04-11

HEATHER CHAPIN-FOWLER

The county commissioners unanimously voted to accept Dumbeck's resignation yesterday after they held an executive session, said Commissioner Mike Adelman.

Dumbeck announced his decision to the agency during a staff meeting yesterday morning, according to Bonnie Richards, Huron County Department of Job and Family Services Human Resources administrator.

"If you ask me if I was shocked, I'd say yes and no," said Adelman.

The commission office received the information through a fax sent by Dumbeck early yesterday, said Adelman. They were informed of the resignation by Administrative Clerk Cheryl Nolan during an executive session following the regular meeting yesterday, Adelman added.

A specific reason for Dumbeck's decision wasn't given yesterday. "It's one of those things you just have to take at face value," said Adelman.

In his resignation letter, Dumbeck said, "I believe that God leads in directions that are sometimes unknown to us but are part of a greater plan. I feel that He is leading me in the direction to serve individuals in a different capacity," stated the letter.

Dumbeck didn't return calls for comment yesterday.

While Adelman wouldn't speculate as to what prompted the resignation, he said "periodic conversations" lately between the commissioners and Dumbeck could have played a part in the director's decision. But Adelman denied that Dumbeck was given an ultimatum to resign or be terminated.

The most recent meeting between the commissioners and Dumbeck was sometime last week, but Adelman refused comment as to what it was about. Commission Vice President Gary Bauer and President Ralph Fegley weren't available for comment.

The commissioners and Dumbeck began a review or audit of the agency in February. Since then, David Broehl, head of the Children Services division, announced his retirement. At the beginning of the agency review, Dumbeck was transferred from his daily operational management duties to focus exclusively on the Children Services division while Richards was given some of the director's daily duties.

The commissioners will concentrate on handling the replacement of the director's position in the upcoming weeks, said Adelman. No decisions have been made yet as far as the preliminary steps, he added.

Robin Hunt, the union president at Huron County Job and Family Services, said Dumbeck's decision to resign was "unfortunate" and that he always addressed union issues in a prompt, efficient manner.

Dumbeck told commissioners in his resignation letter, "I appreciate the opportunity afforded to me to serve the community of Huron County. I have enjoyed working for and being a part of HCDJFS for the last nine years. I am proud to have worked with professionals throughout the community and in this agency that truly have the desire to serve the people of Huron County," the letter also stated.

Attorney Ken Myers, who represents Michael and Sharen Gravelle, and has been a critic of the agency, said about Dumbeck's resignation, "There are people like the Gravelles and Elaine Thompson who got pulled into that system and have jail time hanging over their heads while people like Erich Dumbeck and David Broehl just get to walk away."

Myers most recently served as co-counsel in the case against the county filed by the estate of a foster child who was stabbed to death by her foster father.

Both Thompson and the Gravelles were convicted in the Huron County Common Pleas Court in connection with the Gravelles' 11 adopted children, some of whom were being forced to sleep in enclosed beds in the couples' Clarksfield home.

"The whole thing is just very sad," said Myers. Proceedings in the Gravelles' trial indicated employees of HCJFS had known about the abuse of the children for at least two years before launching an investigation. Records also showed HCJFS employees visited the family's home on several occasions throughout the last 10 years.

"The Gravelle and Connre Dixon (the foster child) case revealed a county agency that was out of control, rudderless and without anyone willing to accept responsibility for the harm they've done and Erich Dumbeck was the head of the agency. I hope the county commissioners find somebody who is able to handle the challenge of running such an important agency and somebody who's capable of knowing when the agency screws up and how two correct mistakes rather than claiming everything is running well," said Myers.

Dumbeck was hired by the Huron County Department of Job and Family Services in 1997 as a child abuse investigator, according to his resume. In 1999, Dumbeck was named the social services supervisor.

Adelman and former commissioners Terry Boose and Ardeth Chupp appointed Dumbeck the director in 2004 after going over approximately 60 applications, according to county officials at the time.

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