By Ben Orcutt -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Warren County community activist William L. "Bill" Pierceall believes that the time has come for the Board of Supervisors to seriously consider dissolving the Department of Social Services' board.
Pierceall made his comments to the supervisors during the panel's Tuesday meeting at the County Government Center. Pierceall implored the supervisors to look into what he thinks are three Freedom of Information Act violations by the agency's board as an example of the need for more oversight.
One of the examples of a possible violation of the open records law, Pierceall said, was the apparent conferring of nominating committee members Alice Jean Kresge, Cheryl Ramos and Lillian B. Sloane, as reflected in the July 23 board meeting minutes, concerning the nomination of Prudence B. Mathews as chairwoman and Kresge as vice chairwoman.
Pierceall said that if Sloane, Ramos and Kresge conferred on the nominations, then a public meeting was required.
"I am unable to find any record of this public meeting by the nominating committee in the DSS minutes," Pierceall said.
Kresge was the only member of the nominating committee who could be reached for comment on the illegal meeting allegation.
"Why would he say that?" Kresge said. "It doesn't mean that we were all together. That's the illegal part, if you're three."
Despite urging from County Attorney Blair D. Mitchell, Pierceall told the supervisors that Mathews and the department's director, Ronald L. King, continue to ignore open records rules, including furnishing a public copy following a closed session on King's new employment agreement approved by the board.
Pierceall told the supervisors that he has videotaped all of the agency's board meetings since January and, "these recordings illustrate the continuing disregard of FOIA requirements."
"The DSS board of directors has ceased to function as a board and has become a rubber stamp to the whims, impulses, and casual urges of Mathews and King," Pierceall added. "Perhaps the time has come for the board of supervisors to dissolve the DSS board and assume direct governance responsibility for normal DSS board functions by having director King report directly to the board of supervisors and the county administrator."
King said he was not aware of Pierceall's comments at Tuesday's supervisors' meeting.
"This is the first I've heard of it, so I can't respond to something I don't know anything about," said King, who was first hired as director of the local agency in August 1999.
An employee at Mathews' business office said she would leave a message with Mathews as far as making a comment, but Mathews did not respond.
Supervisors Chairman Archie A. Fox, who represents the Fork District, and North River District Supervisor Glenn L. White, vice chairman of the panel, were both concerned about Pierceall's statements about the agency board's disregard for the open records laws.
"I think not coming forward with the proper FOIA information is very concerning," Fox said.
Fox added, though, that he thinks it's "premature" for the supervisors to consider dissolving the board until the report of an independent review of the agency by Minnesota-based Springsted Inc. is released.
White said Pierceall's comments were right on point and he has asked that Mitchell and County Administrator Douglas P. Stanley investigate the alleged FOIA violations and report back to the supervisors.
"I think the most telling statement he made was the DSS board is totally and completely ineffective," White said. "I've been maintaining that for about the last year, year and a half or so. It's my opinion that we should either do what Mr. Pierceall suggests in terms of dissolving the board and taking it over ourselves, or replacing the members of the board, who as far as I'm concerned consist of nothing more than a rubber stamp, except for [South River Supervisor] Mrs. [Linda P.] Glavis apparently, who does on occasion and very importantly participate in real actions."