DSS director target of charges

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 8, 2006

JACKSON – A letter from the Chairwoman of the Northampton County Commissioners levels charges about neglected and failed action by DSS Director Dr. Al Wentzy.

The letter from Chairwoman Virginia D. Spruill (D-2nd) is dated April 5 and was written to the Board of Directors for the Northampton County Department of Social Services regarding Northampton County Day Care Funding.

&uot;It has been brought to the attention of the Northampton County Board of Commissioners that your Department of Social Services Director, Mr. Al Wentzy, has neglected, failed and refused to take any action to implement the $125,000 Department of Social Services funding reprogramming authorized and directed by the Northampton County Board of Commissioners meeting in regular session on 20 February 2006 in the above referenced matter,&uot; the letter beings.

The letter further states that the Board has received information that the day care subsidy will be totally expended &uot;in the near future&uot; with approximately seven weeks remaining in the DSS fiscal year.

&uot;Finally, it has been brought to the attention of our Board that the Northampton County Department of Social Services Board has taken no action and has apparently demonstrated no responsibility to help achieve a solution to this funding shortfall,&uot; Spruill wrote.

The four-page letter also pronounces the fault of the funding shortfall to be the problem of the DSS board and insists the matter should have never come before the commissioners.

&uot;This funding shortfall is the total responsibility of your director and your Board and a resolution of same is your responsibility,&uot; Spruill wrote. &uot;Yet, you have deflected or caused to be deflected this responsibility to the Northampton County Board of Commissioners. This is a disservice to the citizens of Northampton County as well as all of your day care providers.&uot;

The letter further says the secondary focus of the correspondence is to detail &uot;for your consideration the actions or lack thereof your Department of Social Services Director, which are the primary cause, in our opinion, of this funding shortfall and to suggest certain measures to be taken by your board.&uot;

The letter then details six incidents in the past nine months that relate to the daycare funding issue.

They are:

1. a July, 2005 correspondence from Peggy M. Ball of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services – Division of Child Development to Dr. Wentzy putting the agency on notice not to rely upon reallocation of funding in the 2005-2006 budget year. The letter says, &uot;Parenthetically, this 13 July letter of caution has been completely ignored by your Department of Social Services Director.&uot;

2. an August, 2005 letter that insisted reallocations would only go to those counties who had compiled a waiting list.

&uot;Your agency was also advised in that August correspondence to closely monitor spending to ensure that you would have adequate funding for this fiscal year without any reallocation funding. Your Department of Social Services Director neglected, failed and refused to prepare or cause to be prepared the required waiting list until December 2005.&uot;

3. Renee Taylor, Child Day Care Supervisor in Northampton County, sent a letter dated September 16 that advised Dr. Wentzy that at current spending, the fund would have an over expenditure of more than $314,000. The letter also says this correspondence advised Dr. Wentzy to compile a waiting list.

4. a second letter from Ball advised DSS advising that Northampton County DSS was spending at a greater level than current funding. The correspondence also reminded that no further funding would come without a waiting list.

5. By order of the DSS Director, 200 children were terminated from day care subsidy effective 15 February, 2006; and

6. On Monday, February 20, the Northampton commissioners approved $125,000 of money budgeted but not spent reprogrammed to support day care subsidy and directed Dr. Wentzy, Finance Officer Dot Vick and County Manager Wayne Jenkins to implement the action immediately.

According to the letter, &uot;You Director to date has neglected, failed and refused to comply with the instructions of the Northampton County Board of Commissioners.&uot;

Spruill’s letter then lays out what the commissioners would like to see on the part of the DSS board.

&uot;It is the considered opinion of the Board of the Northampton County Commissioners based upon the foregoing sequence of events and the forgoing listed failures on the part of your Director to perform his duty in accordance with state guidelines and instruction to develop a plan to implement spending controls for the 2005-2006 fiscal year day care funding allocation, that you should cause a complete investigation to be made to determine, among other things, whether or not your director’s actions or inactions constitute grossly inefficient job performance in office and to recommend whether or not adverse personnel action should be taken in accordance with the provisions of the Northampton County Personnel Policy,&uot; Spruill wrote.

She also called for an immediate meeting of the DSS Board to specifically direct Dr. Wentzy to &uot;comply with the 20 February 2006 instructions given by our Board to help resolve this funding situation.&uot;

The letter concludes by calling on the DSS board to &uot;publicly assume and immediately implement your duty and responsibility to direct and resolve this day care subsidy funding crisis.&uot;

The letter was signed by Spruill and courtesy copied to the Northampton County Board of Commissioners, the Northampton County DSS Director, Sherry Brasher, Director of the North Carolina Division of Social Services and Ball.

Reached by telephone Friday afternoon, Dr. Wentzy said he could not comment on the letter.

Attempts to reach DSS Board Chair Janet Walker were unsuccessful.