Chairman of DHS board quits post
BY GINNIE GRAHAM World Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
6/13/12 at 7:10 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY - During a tense and tumultuous meeting Tuesday, three members of the oversight commission of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services criticized the chairman, who stepped down as leader of the board.
One commissioner called for a no-confidence vote on Brad Yarbrough for using his position as chairman to place two former commissioners on a child-welfare subcommittee.
Yarbrough then announced he had submitted his resignation as chairman to the governor on Monday to be effective at the end of Tuesday's meeting.
He said he had been considering the move since March and that he will remain a member of the commission.
"The duties as chairman have required excessive investment of time," Yarbrough wrote in a letter to the governor.
"But because of the critical and worthy nature of the assignment, the sacrifice was merited. However, this level of involvement is unsustainable. Business opportunities and personal priorities now require more attention."
The announcement of his resignation came after arguments broke out when Yarbrough said he was keeping Steven Dow and Anne Roberts on a committee that makes recommendations to the board about the pending child-welfare reforms stemming from the settlement of a federal class-action lawsuit.
Yarbrough said Dow and Roberts are recognized experts in child advocacy who have been intimately involved in the lawsuit settlement and proposed reforms.
Commissioner Jay Dee Chase called for a no-confidence vote and accused Dow and Roberts of serving illegally.
Chase and Commissioner Richard DeVaughn objected specifically to Dow.
"I have no problem with Anne," DeVaughn said. "I think she was collateral damage."
Dow stepped down after the state Ethics Commission said he had a conflict of interest by heading an agency with a child-care program. Dow had been cleared to serve by the legal staff of former Gov. Brad Henry and an assistant in the Attorney General's Office.
Roberts resigned because she works for a hospital with a child-care program.
Chase brought up a motion twice, with Commissioner Aneta Wilkinson quickly seconding, for a no-confidence vote on Yarbrough.
"Your statements that putting Dow on the committee would speed things along is the most outlandish statement made in this room," Chase said. "The biggest stumbling block has been Dow."
Yarbrough argued with Chase about whether a vote should be taken based on open meetings laws and parliamentary rules.
Yarbrough then called the motion out of order.
He said the court settlement and monitors of the pending reform plan have been clear in wanting commission involvement.
Yarbrough said he wants to use the model of the new special review committee, which has about 15 noncommissioners as members. He said any commissioner can be part of the child-welfare committee.
Chase, DeVaughn and Wilkinson - the longest-serving commissioners - immediately dissented.
"It isn't right," Wilkinson said.
"Your position on Dow and Anne, with what little confidence I had in you, is now gone," Chase said. "I have no confidence in you as chairman."
After the meeting, Yarbrough said, "I think they are offended by my assertiveness in moving forward and challenging the status quo."
Yarbrough and Wes Lane were appointed by Gov. Mary Fallin last fall after DHS had been scrutinized for several high-profile child-abuse deaths and the looming trial in a federal lawsuit involving foster care.
Fallin appointed Yarbrough as chairman, replacing DeVaughn. She has the authority to either name a chairman or allow the vice chairwoman, Wilkinson, to take the helm.
A measure is expected to be on the November ballot to abolish the commission. The DHS director would be appointed by the governor, and four citizen advisory boards would make recommendations to the director.
In other business Tuesday
Commissioner Mike Peck recommended closing the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center in Pauls Valley and consolidating it with Enid's Northern Oklahoma Resource Center. Both are long-term care facilities for people with developmental disabilities.
The institutions require significant renovations and will be forced to close unless specific upgrades, such as sprinkler systems, are made.
While parents and guardians argue that the facilities are the best options for their loved ones, others have been supporting closure to put emphasis and funding toward home-based, residential care.
No vote was taken regarding the proposal from the commission's facilities committee, led by Peck.
The commission approved a budget-balancing proposal for fiscal year 2013.
State funding was increased by lawmakers for several programs, such as bolstering child-welfare reforms and lessening the waiting list for disability services.
State funding needed by DHS for all its operations was about $615 million, and the agency received about $587 million. The total budget, including federal programs such as food stamps, is about $2.3 billion.
To make up the shortfall, the agency will use revenue from carryover funds, federal bonuses and escrows and operational efficiencies.
Ginnie Graham 918-581-8376
Brad Yarbrough: "Business opportunities and personal priorities now require more attention," he wrote in a letter to the governor
Steven Dow: He resigned after the Ethics Commission said he had a conflict of interest