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Questions linger in DYRS hiring

Probe mum on youth agency chief’s role in crafting job description

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A D.C. Department of Human Resources investigation failed to address lingering questions about how a key post was filled in the District's Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services - creating uncertainty over the fate of Mayor Vincent C. Gray's pick to lead the troubled juvenile justice agency.

The findings delivered by phone to council member Jim Graham late Tuesday 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 said he has until Monday to convene a committee vote on Mr. Stanley before the full council's legislative meeting on Tuesday, the last one before the summer recess. He said he needs time to figure out how he will proceed.

"I honestly don't know right now," he said.

Without a vote, Mr. Stanley would be deemed automatically confirmed next week.

Mr. Graham, Ward 1 Democrat and 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.

The council member 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.

D.C. Department of Human Resources (DCHR) interim Director Shawn Stokes promised results by early this week, but the 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."

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 Stokes recommended that DYRS's independent hiring authority be rescinded for one year, that members of D.C. Human Resources detailed to DYRS be suspended without pay, and that personnel process complaints be centralized with the DCHR general counsel.

Mr. Graham said he asked human resources to look into the issue about six weeks ago and hoped the results would address his concerns surrounding Mr. Stanley's confirmation.

"It didn't address them at all," Mr. Graham said, noting committee members are left to "reach our own conclusions." "She knew how time-sensitive this issue is."

Attempts to reach D.C. Human Resources officials for comment were unsuccessful.

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.

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 Districts 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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