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Investigation mum on DYRS chief’s role in questionable hire

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A D.C. Department of Human Resources investigation has failed to address lingering questions about how a key post was filled at the District's juvenile justice agency.

The findings delivered to council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, and made public Wednesday do not reveal whether acting DYRS director Neil A. Stanley tailored a job description for the superintendent of the New Beginnings Youth Development Center in Laurel to fit a candidate he knew socially.

Yet it does say there were "irregularities" in the hiring process and recommends three sanctions that fall short of affecting Mr. Stanley.

Mr. Graham, chairman of the Committee on Human Services, had voiced concern about claims that Mr. Stanley removed juvenile justice requirements from the job description for superintendent at New Beginnings. A committee vote on Mr. Stanley's confirmation to lead the agency on a full-time basis was postponed last month while the human resources department vetted the claims.

Mr. Graham said the editing between January and a reposting in March appeared to make way for Capt. Steven Baynes, who had a successful U.S. Coast Guard career but no discernible experience in juvenile justice.

He asked human resources to look into the issue about six weeks ago.

D.C. Human Resources interim Director Shawn Stokes promised results by early this week, but their preliminary findings fell short of expectations by failing to address Mr. Stanley's purported role.

"When asked to specify the 'irregularities,' Interim Director Stokes declined," according to a timeline on the investigation from Mr. Graham's office. "Ms. Stokes commented that any further details regarding the investigation would need to come from the Attorney General."

However, Ms. Stokes recommended that DYRS's independent hiring authority be rescinded for one year; that members of D.C. human resources detailed to DYRS be suspended without pay; and that personnel process complaints be centralized into the DCHR general counsel.

Mr. Stanley has testified that he knew Capt. Baynes "through friends" and saw him as a qualified person to bring true leadership to the troubled facility.

He said job descriptions are updated routinely, but he would look into the matter.

His chief of staff, Christopher Shorter, said on Wednesday he has not seen the findings released by D.C. human resources.

"I can't confirm or make any comment on DCHR investigation as of yet," he said by phone.

He also could not comment on how the findings may affect Mr. Stanley's confirmation.

A full legislative session is scheduled for July 12, two days before the deadline for council approval of the nomination takes effect automatically.

Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat, openly opposed Mr. Stanley at a June 1 confirmation hearing — citing his lack of relevant experience — before stating the next day that the nomination was "still in play."

The overall outcome of the testimony and investigation will come through votes by each member on the Human Services Committee — which includes Tommy Wells, Michael A. Brown and Yvette Alexander — on whether to advance Mr. Stanley to the full council.

Mr. Stanley served as general counsel for DYRS before Mr. Gray selected him as interim director in December and the official nominee in late March.

Mr. Graham has said Mr. Stanley benefited from significant support at his most recent confirmation hearing, despite the controversial hiring at New Beginnings.

The facility, which sits on 30 acres in Anne Arundel County, is the centerpiece of the District’s most recent efforts at juvenile justice reform. Described as "the anti-prison," the $46 million facility offers high-risk offenders an intensive nine- to 12-month program of counseling, education and job training. But the center has space for just 60 of the roughly 1,100 DYRS wards and has been criticized since it opened as being inadequate for the agency's needs.

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