Huron County official vows to 'keep digging'

Date: 2007-01-04

HEATHER CHAPIN-FOWLER

Bauer said he was unaware until yesterday that an April 2006 evaluation conducted by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services turned up findings of noncompliance by the Huron County department.

Bauer called Erich Dumbeck, county Job and Family Services director, after receiving a letter from a juror on the Michael and Sharen Gravelle criminal trial in the Huron County Common Pleas Court. The Gravelles were found guilty in December of felony child abuse and misdemeanor child abuse and child endangering charges in the treatment of some of the 11 children they adopted.

The juror, Nancy Whitacre of Wakeman, urged the commissioners "to hold their employees responsible for their actions and lack of action in failing these children," according to the letter to county commissioners.

"(Dumbeck) told me there were no significant findings, that there were some minor adjustments to be made," Bauer said of his conversation with Dumbeck regarding the state evaluation.

The state followed up the evaluation with a meeting with county Job and Family Services administrators on Oct. 3 to inform them of the state's "expectations," said Dennis Evans of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

Details of the evaluation and the corrective action plan have not yet been released by the state agency, but Evans said some training of employees will be required.

Dumbeck said yesterday he didn't know what the areas of noncompliance are because he didn't have that file readily available.

Bauer said he had not been told the state evaluation will result in training of county workers to screen child abuse complaints, because Dumbeck hadn't mentioned it.

"We're going to keep digging or I'm going to keep digging. But I'm not ready to indict Erich yet unless something is proven that he did or didn't do or supervised something that did or didn't get done. I guess it goes back to the law. You're innocent until proven guilty," Bauer said.

As far as the looking into whether the Gravelle matter was handled properly by the county department, Bauer doesn't feel comfortable discussing it until it has been resolved in court, he said.

"They haven't even been sentenced yet," he said.

The sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 12.

Whitacre said in her Jan. 1 letter that the "presence of Ôcages with sirens' was reported and documented two years before the children were removed from the home. For two years the agency chose to do nothing. For two years the children continued to live under deplorable conditions because no action was taken. Two years. Why? Where is the accountability of the county agency and its employees? Where is the ethical responsibility of these agents."

"It's clearly still in the legal process, and I don't think we would really be proper in discussing anything about the case," Bauer said of the letter.

"As far as discussing this lady's letter or the legal process, I think we'd be totally out of order," Bauer said.

Dumbeck received a copy of the letter from the commission office. He said the agency has corrected certain procedures to prevent any similar reoccurrence.

Commissioners do not expect to discuss the agency in regards to the letter or state evaluation at today's commission meeting, Bauer said.

0

Pound Pup Legacy