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Yesterday, Mayor Adrian Fenty announced his nomination of Roque Gerald to become the permanent director of Child and Family Services at a press conference. Gerald had served as the agency’s interim director since this past July. Fenty called his nomination a “shot in the arm” and touted Gerald as an old-hand within the troubled agency which apparently is a net plus.
What may be troubling is the possibility that Fenty’s people did not interview anyone else for the position. Even before the Banita Jacks case, the agency faced serious questions about its case management and the thoroughness of its investigative work. The agency is currently in the midst of a huge court battle. And its problems are vast.
Charles Allen, Councilmember Tommy Wells‘ chief of staff, says his office is not aware of any other candidates being vetted for CFSA’s top job. I asked him if anyone else was interviewed. “We’re not aware of one,” Allen says. Calls to the mayor’s office have not yet been returned.
Allen says this may be a concern that there were no other candidates. “We expect that to come out in the confirmation hearing,” Allen says.
Allen does add that the agency has made some improvements. In particular, the agency’s notorious backlog has been cut. “[Gerald] certainly has the ability to tout some accomplishments and hear if there are any concerns,” Allen says. “We’d be looking to hold a confirmation hearing in the near future. Budget hearings start next week. It will probably take a month or two before we get to a confirmation hearing.”
Allen adds: “There are still several concerns about the agency. There’s clearly more work that has to get done. The folks who feel that they are not happy with the progress can come to the confirmation hearing.”
Gerald certainly came into the job with some controversy. There was the news that he had sex with a female patient years ago. We chronicled one messy CFSA case.
One CFSA staffer says that Gerald may have trouble touting the closing of the backlog as a major accomplishment. The staffer points to a relaxation of standards in getting it closed:
Gerald’s appointment was not unexpected by people here….It’s true that more needs to be accomplished, and it would not be correct to give him the credit for the end of the backlog. That credit is more due to the independent advisers and what actually happened was the severe relaxation of the original standards for case investigations.
When that happened in early November, then the number of case closings rose dramatically. From what I can gather, the court monitors did not have Gerald as their choice and this led to conflict with the mayor. Probably his appointment, therefore, is a result of a negotiated settlement that will be reflected in the upcoming court hearings on the show cause and motion to be removed from federal control by the respective parties.
So far calls to the court monitor have not been returned. I have been told that the monitor has been traveling and is not in D.C.