City leader out amid Social Services investigation

Posted at 11:47 AM, Dec 10, 2012
and last updated 2012-12-11 12:02:03-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - Richmond’s Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Human Services Dr. Carolyn Graham and the City of Richmond "reached a mutual agreement" that resulted in Graham leaving her job with the city.

Monday's announcement comes after a series of investigative reports into Richmond's Department of Social Services by CBS 6 reporter Catie Beck.

"Dr. Graham's last official day in the office was Friday, December 7, 2012," the spokeswoman for Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones wrote in an email to CBS 6."Dr. Graham will be working with city leadership over the next few weeks to provide a transition plan for many of the important projects for which she had oversight responsibility."

Richmond Chief Administrative Officer Byron Marshall will take over Graham's position until another interim deputy is named, mayor's spokeswoman Tammy Hawley added.

Richmond Deputy Director for Child Welfare Gayle Turner speaking at city human services committee on Nov. 28, 2012.

Richmond Deputy Director for Child Welfare Gayle Turner speaking at city human services committee meeting on Nov. 28, 2012.

In addition to Graham's departure, the city announced the deputy director for Child Welfare Gayle Turner was placed on administrative leave. Hawley said that decision was made "because of a number of allegations the City has received."

Last month Beck broke news that a drastic decrease in the number of abuse and neglect petitions filed by the city, on behalf of abused children, had prompted a state investigation.

"Decisions will be made concerning overall Richmond Department of Social Services staffing when the Virginia Department of Social Services and external reviews are complete," Hawley wrote.

“At some point you have to say enough is enough and when it's children's lives you can't make that decision too soon," said Councilman Charles Samuels.

Samuels says changing the leadership of Richmond's Department of Social Services is just one step on a long road. Amid mounting allegations that the department was leaving some children in unsafe homes too long, the agency's overseer and top city administrator Carolyn Graham agreed to resign Friday.

"This was a culmination of other events but this in my mind was the most serious of all the allegations," said Councilman Chris Hilbert.

Some city leaders argue Graham has shown questionable leadership over all three departments that have been under her control. As the Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, she had been in charge of Social Services, Parks and Recreation and Justice Services.

But in April, the mayor removed Graham's control of Justice Services, largely because of problems with Richmond's juvenile detention center.

Earlier in the year, when Samuels raised questions about problems at the youth jail, Graham accused him of grandstanding, and said that most of the issues had already been addressed. But within months the mayor had had enough, and shut the detention center down.

Then in June an audit found the Parks and Recreation Department had not been doing criminal background checks on volunteers that may be interacting with children. Several of those volunteers were found to have felony convictions in their backgrounds.

Finally this week, allegations that the DSS, the agency tasked to protect children, was in fact putting them at risk.

"We're under investigation right now and that a good thing to get to the bottom of everything," said Hilbert.

Graham's deputy Gayle Turner was also placed on administrative leave in the wake of the DSS allegations. Reports from the Washington Post indicate that Graham and Turner worked together in Washington DC where Turner was asked to resign in 2003. That came after an overhaul of that city's troubled juvenile justice department. Community advocate Paul Goldman questions how the city of Richmond overlooked Turner's controversial past.

"Getting them out of the way had to be done months ago," said Goldman.

Goldman says now with leadership removed, it's time to get past politics and to the heart of the issue.

"It's about whether kids, vulnerable children that are being neglected when we're supposed to be protecting them," said Goldman.

Stay with CBS 6 News for the latest on this developing story. Depend on CBS 6 News for exclusive, in-depth investigations you won’t find anywhere else. 

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