Verbal fireworks erupted at an Oklahoma Department of Human Services meeting Tuesday as Brad Yarbrough announced his resignation as commission chairman at the same time another commissioner was demanding a commission vote to censure him.
Yarbrough said he would continue to serve as a regular commission member.
“I will remain as a member of the commission,” Yarbrough wrote in a resignation statement handed to news media during a break in the meeting. “The duties as chairman have required an excessive investment of time.”
Yarbrough said after the meeting that he had submitted his resignation as chairman to the governor's office Monday. He said the decision was unrelated to Commissioner Jay Dee Chase's call for his censure.
The resignation was to become effective at the end of Tuesday's meeting, he said. Yarbrough said he had actually sought to resign the position as early as March, but Gov. Mary Fallin refused to accept it then.
Fallin issued a statement Tuesday saying she will now accept Yarbrough's decision to step down.
“Brad has been a tireless and fearless advocate for the populations that DHS serves,” Fallin said. “Since joining the commission as chairman, he has put countless hours into everything from the Pinnacle (child welfare reform) Plan to the day-to-day operations of the agency and has helped revamp the agency and increase oversight and accountability to the public. While he will no longer serve as chairman, I know Brad will continue to work hard on behalf of the citizens of Oklahoma as a member of the DHS commission.”
Fallin appointed Yarbrough to head the commission that oversees the state's largest agency last September. She asked him to lead an agency in turmoil because of several high-profile deaths of children who previously had been reported to the child welfare agency as having been abused or neglected.
The agency also was being sued in federal court by a New York-based children's rights group that alleged children were being severely harmed by their stays in DHS custody.
A settlement was reached in January, but turmoil has continued within the agency as it continues efforts to refine its reform plan.
Two of the nine commissioners resigned May 30 because of ethics questions.
Tuesday's fireworks were ignited when Yarbrough announced he had asked Steven Dow and Anne Roberts, the two commissioners who had resigned, to continue to serve as nonmembers on a DHS committee that is refining a child welfare reform plan and another committee that is looking into child deaths.
Several other commissioners bitterly complained they weren't consulted.
“It's not right,” Commissioner Aneta Wilkinson said.
Commissioner Chase requested a vote on whether Dow and Roberts should be included on the committees. Yarbrough responded he was using his prerogative as chairman to appoint them.
Chase then called for a vote of no confidence in Yarbrough, but Yarbrough wouldn't allow the vote because it wasn't on the agenda.
The agency's top attorney then told commissioners they could consider taking a vote of no confidence later in the meeting when new business could be discussed.
Dow's committee appointments particularly riled several longtime commissioners, who have verbally sparred with him over a number of issues since he stated in a September news article in The Oklahoman that he thought the commission had been “asleep at the wheel.”