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Union Co. commissioners vote to end human services board

By Cleve R. Wootson Jr.
cwootson@charlotteobserver.com

Union County commissioners on Monday voted to abolish the county’s Human Services Board after a scandal in which a child living with a Department of Social Services supervisor was found handcuffed to a porch with a dead chicken around his neck.

Commissioners unanimously voted to dissolve the board and give themselves the ability to have more oversight of the operations of DSS.

That board was created last February to make policy, set rules and perform administrative tasks for the county’s human services agency after the merger of the health and DSS agencies. At the time, those agencies reported to different boards and commissioners had little oversight, according to a news release from the county.

To replace the dissolved board, commissioners created a human services advisory committee, which will have less power.

The move comes two months after a Union County deputy found the 11-year-old boy handcuffed to the porch of a Monroe-area farmhouse.

Authorities arrested homeowners Dorian Harper and longtime girlfriend Wanda Larson, a child protective services supervisor at the county DSS who has since been fired. Larson had legal guardianship of the boy, and she also had adopted four other children, ages 7 to 14, who lived at the home.

The children have been removed from the home and are under the care of Davidson County DSS.

Many questioned whether Union DSS had proper oversight, and last month commissioners voted to begin the process of eliminating the Consolidated Human Services Board, which is comprised of professionals in health and human services and the people who use those services.

Commissioners have told the Observer they feel they can make changes to county service agencies more nimbly without the board.

But Human Services Board members, including some who spoke during the public hearing portion of Monday’s meeting, said the county was removing the only independent oversight of DSS.

“I am ... an asset and not a hindrance,” said Melinda Plue, a member of the Human Services Board who spoke at Monday’s meeting. “I don’t have a dog in the fight except that I understand social work policy as well as I represent consumers. I speak for most of us when I say I want to help guide you.”

Wootson: 704-358-5046; Twitter: @CleveWootson
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