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Another setback for Oklahoma's human services agency

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: June 14, 2012

THE Department of Human Services, an agency that badly needs things to go right, instead continues to see things go wrong. The latest example came Tuesday at the monthly meeting of the Human Services Commission, the board responsible for overseeing DHS.

Commission Chairman Brad Yarbrough resigned that post after another commissioner, Jay Dee Chase, sought to have him censured. The move by Chase followed Yarbrough's attempt to have two former commissioners, Anne Roberts and Steven Dow, continue to serve as nonmembers on two DHS-related committees.

Roberts and Dow, each appointed to the commission in 2010 and each highly talented and committed to improving DHS, resigned last month. Dow stepped down after the Oklahoma Ethics Commission reprimanded him over a possible conflict of interest; in following suit, Roberts cited concerns that she might have a similar conflict. Both are associated with entities that receive DHS services.

Chase and some other commissioners were angry that Yarbrough hadn't consulted with them about his idea of keeping Dow and Roberts in the mix. The thought of Dow helping in any way was particularly off-putting to Chase, who never got along with Dow. The former commissioner had “caused problems” on the board, Chase said, and had been “an objectionist on everything.” That latter criticism is particularly rich.

Chase (and two other board members) objected to settling the federal class-action lawsuit filed against DHS over its child welfare system. Chase objected to being asked to give a deposition in that lawsuit. He bristled at Dow's insistence that board and committee meetings adhere to state open meeting laws. He objected when October's meeting ran long and caused him to miss an eye appointment.

Chase obviously prefers the days before Dow was named to the board and began causing “problems” by actually asking questions and demanding answers about children who had died in DHS custody, instead of doing little more at monthly meetings than listening to the director and staff give routine, data-laden updates about goings-on at the agency.

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by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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