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Two Oklahoma DHS commissioners resign

Two members of Oklahoma DHS's nine-member governing commission resigned Wednesday amid concerns about conflicts of interest.
by Randy Ellis Modified: May 30, 2012 at 9:33 pm •  Published: May 30, 2012

Two members of the Department of Human Services' nine-member governing commission resigned Wednesday amid concerns about conflicts of interest.

The resignation of Commissioner Steven Dow, of Tulsa, came one day after he was publicly reprimanded by the Oklahoma Ethics Commission.

He was reprimanded for serving as a DHS commissioner at the same time he was the unpaid chief executive officer of the Community Action Project of Tulsa County, a nonprofit agency that contracts with DHS to provide day care and child education services.

Commissioner Anne Roberts, of Norman, also resigned, telling The Oklahoman that she read about Dow's reprimand and became concerned she might have a similar conflict of interest.

Roberts serves as director of legislative affairs of Integris Health, a corporation that offers child care services subsidized by DHS.

Gov. Mary Fallin issued a statement Wednesday saying she has accepted both resignations.

“Both Steven Dow and Anne Roberts are dedicated public servants who have poured countless hours into their roles at the Department of Human Services,” Fallin said in a prepared statement.

“Their work on the Pinnacle Plan, for example, will help to ensure that a new wave of reforms can be implemented at DHS that better care for children in state custody.”

Pinnacle Plan

Dow and Roberts, both appointed to the commission by then-Gov. Brad Henry, worked the past several months to help settle a federal class-action lawsuit and on developing the Pinnacle Plan.

The plan addresses 15 areas to improve DHS's child welfare services, including caseloads, number of placements and recruitment of foster homes, and calls for a series of changes that include hiring 200 child welfare workers and 40 supervisors, recruiting 1,000 traditional foster families, granting pay raises to foster parents and child welfare workers, and eliminating the use of state shelters for young abused and neglected children.

The Ethics Commission ruled that Dow had a conflict of interest because the Community Action Project operates before-school and after-school day care, as well as child education centers and contracts with DHS to provide services to low-income children.

Roberts, appointed to the commission in 2010, said she was concerned the same ruling could be applied to her because Integris also has child care services subsidized by DHS.

“I sure don't want there to be any negative feelings about anything,” Roberts said. “DHS is going through so much; I want to make sure I don't cause any heartburn with anybody. I'm still very committed to the mission of DHS. I'm really supportive of especially the Pinnacle Plan and all the great work they're doing around child welfare. I feel like it's in good hands if I go.”

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by Randy Ellis
Investigative Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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