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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Ind. Gov't. - Astonishing story today: "DCS Director Payne waged a behind-the-scenes fight to discredit and derail his agency's recommendations in a child neglect case that involved his grandchildren"

The lengthy (nearly 3-full pages in the paper), must-read, front-page story today in the Indianapolis Star, reported by Tim Evans, begins:

Even as he ran DCS, Payne became deeply immersed in the case, which began in 2010 when his grandchildren were taken from their mother by his agency as she was locked in a nasty divorce and custody battle with Payne's son.

It wasn't DCS' removal of the children, however, that Payne opposed. What put him at odds with DCS was his agency's push, about nine months later, to end the neglect case and permanently reunite the children with their mother.

Payne, in written responses to questions from The Star, stressed that his only role in the case was "as a grandparent, father and husband," and not in a professional capacity.

At no point during his involvement in the case, however, did Payne step aside from his leadership role with the agency -- a move ethics experts say would have been appropriate.

Payne received transportation assistance for the children through DCS, which is not available to all families, despite earning more than $130,000 and having a state-issued vehicle.

The Star's investigation, based on a review of hundreds of pages of documents related to the DCS and divorce cases, found:

  • Payne became directly involved in helping his son fight DCS, including consulting with his son's attorney and drafting a legal brief highly critical of his agency's work in the case.

  • The Code of Conduct that Payne instituted at DCS forbids employees and top officials from "personal and private interests" such as intervening in a case involving relatives.

  • Payne did not notify Gov. Mitch Daniels of his deep involvement in the DCS case or let the governor know that he at one point became the target of an investigation into whether he slapped one of his grandchildren while the child was in his care. The child abuse allegation did not prompt an independent probe. Instead, Payne, who denied the allegation, was investigated and cleared by his own agency.
The story has links to many documents.

The Star today also has an editorial headed "DCS' Payne crosses ethical line in case of his grandchildren." A few quotes:

James Payne, in getting personally involved in a Department of Child Services case involving his grandchildren, has grossly violated ethical guidelines, including, it appears, his own agency's code of conduct. * * *

All of that pales in comparison with the latest scandal. As The Star's Tim Evans documented Sunday, Payne in 2010 got intricately involved in a DCS case involving his grandchildren -- to the point that he worked to discredit his own agency's recommendations. * * *

The governor must give this matter his utmost attention in the days ahead. Payne is in his last months as DCS director, but it's difficult to see how he can continue to lead the agency in light of these revelations.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 23, 2012 09:25 AM
Posted to Indiana Government