Did interim city social services director make progress before resignation?

Posted at 2:47 PM, Jan 13, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-14 00:25:34-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - The woman who served as interim director of Richmond's Department of Social Services (DSS) has resigned. Tonya Vincent's last day at the office was Friday.

A spokeswoman for Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones said she was not at liberty to comment on Vincent's next move, but added her plans would be made public soon.

Prior to her interim role at DSS, Vincent worked for the Richmond Police Department as Deputy Chief of Administration.

Amid much controversy, DSS Director Doris Moseley announced her retirement in May. Moseley was in charge of the department when the Office of the Inspector General published a report that detailed mismanagement within the agency.

“The report is difficult and painful to read. It highlights several failures in an agency charged with protecting our most vulnerable residents,” Mayor Jones said in a May 2013 interview.

Vincent took over the department while the city searched for a full-time replacement.

The man currently in charge on an interim basis says the city is doing its best to investigate cases of alleged child abuse.

Stephen Harms became Interim Chief Administrative Officer for Human Services in January of 2013, after Dr. Carolyn Graham and the city “reached a mutual agreement” that resulted in her leaving her job with the city.

At the time of a series of investigative reports into Richmond’s Department of Social Services, DSS employees told CBS6 that agency management made the emergency removals of children from abusive homes almost impossible.

We wanted to know if the city is making any progress in improving the troubled agency.

The city now says it is changing that culture.

“What we have done is to make sure workers know that they are the ones responsible for making that decision...we will not override those at a higher level,” Harms said.

Harms said people in the legal community are seeing signs of improvement.

“The best people to ask would be the judges and the courts...have they seen a difference in what we`re doing?  If you were to ask them....I think you would say yes we are seeing more petitions in the court than we have before,” Harms said.

But, City Council President Charles Samuels told CBS6’s Melissa Hipolit he still has concerns.

“I`m not yet ready to speak on them yet on camera, but I`m concerned about what`s happening at DSS,” Samuels said.

Samuels is one of two council members who demanded an investigation into the City’s Department of Social Services more than a year ago.

“This is one of the most important departments within the city this protects our most vulnerable population,” Samuels said.

The management structure at the agency remains in flux with interim department head Tonya Vincent leaving to take a new job and Harms only involved temporarily.

Samuels said it is time for permanent stability at DSS.

“The idea is to have somebody with a steady hand on it for the long haul,” Samuels said.

To that point, Harms said the city hopes to have a permanent replacement for his position named in the next few weeks.

In that role, Harms oversees the city’s Department of Social Services.