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Union County DSS fires another employee as scrutiny continues

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

Another person has been fired as Union County Department of Social Services leaders scrutinize the agency after the arrest of one of its supervisors.

The supervisor, Wanda Larson, was the legal guardian of an 11-year-old boy found handcuffed to a porch with a dead chicken tied around his neck.

On Thursday, the Observer obtained a copy of the termination letter for Janet Curlee, 59, a social work program administrator first hired by the county in 1979.

Last week, Union DSS officials told the Observer they’d fired two workers and suspended a third. Curlee, whose dismissal letter described her as “a member of the core management staff,” is the second high-ranking official fired after Larson’s case drew criticism to the agency.

The letter from Social Services Division Director Rae Alepa says Alepa feels “that you are not fully supportive of the mandated changes taking place in our agency and indifferent to the effort required of core management to provide the leadership and direction necessary to transform our services and support our staff in meeting challenges.”

The letter also said Curlee had not adequately addressed concerns brought up in meetings: delinquent cases that weren’t reviewed in a timely manner, a perceived resistance to implementing new processes, an inability to effectively carry out local and state directives, and poor judgment in addressing critical case and personnel issues.

The termination letter said that more examples “of poor judgment and decision making” had come to Alepa’s attention, although the letter didn’t give specifics.

Curlee could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The firing occurred as the agency remains under scrutiny after Larson’s arrest in November. Larson was the legal guardian of the 11-year-old boy who was found handcuffed to her Monroe-area porch with a dead chicken tied around his neck. The boy and other children who were under Larson’s care are in DSS custody in another county.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services has been investigating Union DSS since the arrest. State reports published Wednesday found a lack of substantive meetings with children to determine whether the child’s needs are being met.

“We’re expecting changes to be made,” Wayne Black, director of the state DSS in DHHS, told the Observer.

Income maintenance administrator Cynthia Dumas was dismissed Jan. 23. Her dismissal letter cited concerns about job performance and rapport with staff.

Social worker III Megan Long was dismissed Jan. 23. Her dismissal letter cited Long’s “poor decisions and lack of action in not properly investigating and assessing this case.”

Social work program manager Kevin Williams was put on disciplinary suspension Feb. 5, then on investigatory suspension Feb. 10. An investigatory suspension, which is not a punitive suspension, removes an employee while an investigation is underway.

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