Union County DSS fires 2 more workers, demotes a top manager

07/11/2014 2:17 PM

07/11/2014 2:18 PM

Two more Union County Division of Social Services workers have been fired and a top manager has been demoted, recently released public records show.

It’s the latest shakeup for an agency that has undertaken a major overhaul following last November’s arrest of a child protective services supervisor on child abuse charges. Wanda Larson was fired after an 11-year-old boy that she was the guardian of was found handcuffed to her Monroe-area porch with a dead chicken tied around his neck.

One of the people who was recently fired, social worker Charles Durrah, “continued to frequently place clients at risk of serious harm with the potential for death,” DSS director Rae Alepa told Durrah in his dismissal letter. The June 5 document was obtained under a public records request.

Durrah investigated claims of abuse or neglect for the child protective services unit. He was hired in December 2011 and earned $44,455 a year, records show.

In the letter, Alepa cited the reason for the dismissal as “gross oversight in the performance of your duties and potential for death or serious harm to a client over whom you had responsibility.” She did not go into details but stated that Durrah failed to improve following numerous coaching sessions.

Alepa also stated that Durrah’s “pattern of gross oversight” in his job performance diminished clients’ confidence in DSS and placed the agency out of compliance with federal and state policy requirements.

Durrah could not be reached for comment.

Part-time income maintenance caseworker Jennifer Rowland was dismissed May 22 for unacceptable personal conduct, records show. The county did not detail the conduct. Rowland was hired March 31 at $15.75 an hour.

Rowland could not be reached for comment.

Five people have now been fired by DSS this year.

And Kevin Williams was demoted from social work program manager to social worker II on May 31, records show. As program manager, Williams oversaw treatment and investigative supervisors, and other employees in the child protective services unit, as well as quality assurance in that unit.

He was put on disciplinary suspension Feb. 5, then on investigatory suspension Feb. 10, which lasted until his demotion, records show. An investigatory suspension, which is not punitive, removes an employee from the workplace while managers gather information.

Williams had worked on and off for the agency since 1988. He saw his annual salary decrease by $13,412 following the demotion and now earns $48,540 a year, records show.

He previously had been promoted several times, including in 2011 to the program manager job, where his file cited his expertise and his having the highest applicant test score.

Williams could not be reached for comment.

Changing agency culture

Citing personnel rules, Richard Matens, executive director of the county Human Services Department, which includes DSS, said he could not discuss any specifics about Durrah, Rowland or Williams.

Matens has overseen major changes at DSS following Larson’s arrest – moves that focused on increasing accountability and emphasizing a more collaborative approach.

“The (people) that are here are really committed,” Matens said. “There is a culture of transparency and openness, and the focus is now really on the children.”

Meanwhile, Larson and longtime boyfriend Dorian Harper, who also was charged in the felony child abuse case, remain in jail awaiting trial. The 11-year-old and four other children whom Larson had adopted who were living in the Harper-Larson home were removed from there and remain under the supervision of Davidson County DSS.

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