- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 21, 2012

At least a dozen high-level and veteran employees of the troubled D.C. Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services have resigned or been forced out of their jobs in recent months, The Washington Times has learned.

Current and former sources at the agency say the defections raise concerns about the leadership of DYRS Director Neil Stanley, appointed by Mayor Vincent C. Gray in March 2011.

The exodus comes after months in which Mr. Stanley has wrestled with concerns that arose early in his tenure about the agency’s ability to control youth assaults and property destruction at the 60-bed New Beginnings Youth Development Center in Laurel, and an alarming history of violence among committed youths in community placement settings.

The Times reported last year that the agency’s own figures said that more than 50 committed youths either had been killed or found guilty of killing someone else in the previous five years.

Mr. Stanley, who reportedly has clashed with staff at all levels and driven out talented people, also has been challenged on his hiring of a longtime associate to lead the New Beginnings facility.

The D.C. Department of Human Resources confirmed Friday the names of at least 12 managers and professionals who recently left DYRS.

DYRS officials declined to comment on the departed employees, many of whom were nationally recognized specialists in their fields and several of whom worked directly for Mr. Stanley.

On Friday, the agency said in a statement: “DYRS has cultivated a talented, highly qualified staff committed to its mission. In the last year, DYRS has attracted the best and brightest in service delivery and treatment, management, and evaluation. We continue to be on-track to effectively support positive outcomes for DYRS youth, their communities, and the city.”

Yet the recent defections involve a range of professional specialties and have cut deeply into Mr. Stanley’s inner circle.

DYRS Chief Operating Officer Chris Shorter, who only recently was publicly defending the agency’s program for community placement of troubled youths, has resigned, as has Deputy Director Barry Holman, according to current and former DYRS employees with direct knowledge of the departures.

Mr. Shorter, who now works for the Office of the State Superintendent for Education, did not respond to a call for comment.

Mr. Holman, who oversaw strategic planning and performance management, said in an email: “I left at a time when DYRS is strong and stable. I am confident it will continue to successfully meet its mission. There is a great team in place who are working hard. I am proud of what has been accomplished and I look forward to the agency continuing to improve how it serves the young people, families and communities of the District.”

Michael Umpierre, a former chief of staff and former special assistant to the director at DYRS who has a wealth of experience as a youth advocate, public defender and juvenile justice administrator, recently resigned and became program co-coordinator with the Michigan-based National Center for Youth in Custody. At DYRS, Mr. Umpierre helped manage a staff of about 600 professionals responsible for the care of 1,000 court-involved youths.

In a statement, he said, “It was an honor to work at DYRS and to serve the residents of the District of Columbia. Under the leadership of Director Neil Stanley, the agency has accomplished a great deal and continues to head in the right direction. While leaving DYRS was difficult, I am heartened by the fact that the agency has dedicated staff who are deeply committed to serving the District’s youth and their families.”

Neither Mr. Holman nor Mr. Umpierre would agree to be interviewed or respond to questions.

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