Union DSS fires 2, suspends one other worker

abell@charlotteobserver.comFebruary 26, 2014 

— Union County’s Division of Social Services has fired two workers, and suspended a third person, the county confirmed Wednesday.

The moves occurred as the agency remains under intense scrutiny following the arrest last November of one of its supervisors, Wanda Larson. Larson was the legal guardian of an 11-year-old boy who was found handcuffed to her Monroe-area porch with a dead chicken tied around his neck.

Larson was fired after her arrest; she and long-time boyfriend Dorian Harper face a number of child abuse-related charges.

In mid-January, the county detailed the first significant changes to the agency after the arrests.

The agency is looking to bolster accountability and efficiency, part of discussions that were underway even before Larson’s arrest , said Richard Matens, head of the Department of Human Services, which oversees DSS.

He declined to say whether any of the three personnel actions confirmed on Wednesday were related to each other or to fallout from the Larson case.

Speaking in general terms, Matens said, “We are setting a certain standard of accountability, and we expect all our employees to meet those standards. ... Sometimes people have difficulty adapting to change.

“But we are not here to do a witch hunt,” he said.

The county released documents detailing its actions. Records show:

•  Income maintenance administrator Cynthia Dumas was dismissed Jan. 23. Her dismissal letter cited concerns about job performance and rapport with staff. “You are not fully supportive of the mandated changes taking place in our agency,” DSS Director Rae Alepa wrote in the letter.

•  Social worker III Megan Long was dismissed Jan. 23. Her dismissal letter cited Long’s “poor decisions and lack of action in not properly investigating and assessing this case.”

•  Social work program manager Kevin Williams was put on disciplinary suspension Feb. 5, then on investigatory suspension Feb. 10. Matens said he could not discuss the reasons for the actions. Records do not indicate that Williams has been taken off investigatory suspension, which is not a punitive suspension but removes an employee while an investigation is underway.

Bell: 704-358-5696; Twitter: @abell

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