DYRS chief still un­der scru­tiny

Ac­cu­sa­tions by staffers, in a suit

The Washington Times Daily - - Metro - BY JEF­FREY AN­DER­SON

More than a year has passed since D.C. Depart­ment of Youth Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Ser­vices (DYRS) Di­rec­tor Neil Stan­ley over­came staunch union re­sis­tance and a bruis­ing con­fir­ma­tion process to be hired to lead the trou­bled agency.

But ac­cord­ing to al­le­ga­tions in a civil law­suit and in­ter­views with cur­rent and for­mer DYRS em­ploy­ees, some of them ex­ec­u­tive-level of­fi­cials and close as­so­ciates of Mr. Stan­ley, his man­age­ment style and lack of lead­er­ship skills have hurt the agency.

A pref­er­ence for se­crecy, dis­trust of his own em­ploy­ees — save for a small in­ner cir­cle that ex­er­cises tight con­trol over man­age­ment de­ci­sions with lit­tle in­put from ex­pe­ri­enced ju­ve­nile jus­tice pro­fes­sion­als — and an im­pulse to cover up bad out­comes are among the chief com­plaints of both rank-and-file and front-of­fice em­ploy­ees.

Now Mr. Stan­ley faces a cru­cial over­sight hear­ing ex­am­in­ing his lead­er­ship of an agency op­er­at­ing un­der a con­sent de­cree that still is re­cov­er­ing from years of abu­sive de­ten­tion poli­cies, and which, in the past five years, has placed more than 50 medium- to high- risk youths in com­mu­ni­ties where they have ei­ther been killed or con­victed of a killing.

Con­cerns about Mr. Stan­ley have made their way to coun­cil mem­ber Jim Gra­ham, Ward 1 Demo­crat and chair­man of the Com­mit­tee on Health and Hu­man Ser­vices, which over­sees the

AN­NAPO­LIS | A Se­nate com­mit­tee agreed Thurs­day to re­work Gov. Martin O’mal­ley’s pro­posed bud­get, installing an al­ter­na­tive set of tax hikes and a more grad­ual shift in teacher­pen­sion costs while avoid­ing any ad­di­tional spend­ing cuts.

The spend­ing plan by the Se­nate Bud­get and Tax­a­tion Com­mit­tee would rely on an across-the-board in­come-tax in­crease rather than the Demo­cratic gov­er­nor’s tar­geted hikes on the top 20 per­cent of earn­ers to help bal­ance the bud­get and trim more than half of the state’s $1.1-bil­lion struc­tural deficit.

Com­mit­tee mem­bers also re­jected Mr. O’mal­ley’s plan to im­me­di­ately push $239 mil­lion in teacher pen­sion costs onto coun­ties, in­stead phas­ing in a shift over four years. They also are re­quir­ing more ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing from coun­ties but al­low­ing them to foot the bill by rais­ing lo­cal in­come-tax rates above their cur­rent caps.

be­lea­guered agency.

“While DYRS has made some im­prove­ments over the last year, we have a long way to go,” said Mr. Gra­ham, who will con­vene the hear­ing Fri­day.

Mr. Stan­ley de­clined to be in­ter­viewed, but Deputy Mayor Beatriz “B.B.” Otero, who over­sees DYRS, has pub­licly praised the 42-year-old jour­ney­man bu­reau­crat. She de­nied that ad­vo­cacy groups such as the An­nie E. Casey Foun­da­tion, where she once worked, have dic­tated phi­los­o­phy, pol­icy or hir­ing de­ci­sions to the city.

Such de­nials ring hol­low within the agency.

A nag­ging con­cern about Mr. Stan­ley has been his hir­ing of a so­cial ac­quain­tance to run the New Be­gin­nings Youth De­vel­op­ment Cen­ter af­ter re­vis­ing the job qual­i­fi­ca­tions to suit him. Steven T. Baines, a U.S. Coast Guard veteran who had no pre­vi­ous dis­cernible ju­ve­nile jus­tice ex­pe­ri­ence, re­mains at the helm of New Be­gin­nings.

A sep­a­rate con­cern, veteran ad­min­is­tra­tors and rank-and-file em­ploy­ees said, is that when a DYRS youth is killed or named as a sus­pect in a mur­der or es­capes from a group home or other fa­cil­ity, Mr. Stan­ley or­ders the agen­cy­wide data­base of ju­ve­nile case files locked down so only he and his in­ner cir­cle have ac­cess. Mr. Stan­ley’s chief of staff, Christopher Shorter, said im­pos­ing se­crecy ex­cept on a “need-to-know ba­sis” is jus­ti­fied.

“The agency has the abil­ity and an obli­ga­tion to pro­tect the con­fi­den­tial­ity of ju­ve­nile records,” he said.

At the same time, an in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­volv­ing sex-abuse al­le­ga­tions against a man­age­ment-level em­ployee that led to a whirl­wind of fir­ings, res­ig­na­tions and un­ex­plained job trans­fers of­fers a win­dow into what many de­scribe as chaos, dis­trust and dys­func­tion within the agency.

The Washington Times re­ported in July on a 28-year-old fe­male DYRS em­ployee who ac­cused her male su­per­vi­sor of forc­ing her to per­form oral sex on him in his of­fice over a pe­riod of sev­eral months. The equal em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­nity unit of the of­fice of the at­tor­ney gen­eral (OAG) in­ves­ti­gated but could not sub­stan­ti­ate the ac­cu­sa­tion, ac­cord­ing to man­age­ment-level em­ploy­ees who were in­ter­viewed in the probe.

The su­per­vi­sor, who was fired af­ter an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, ve­he­mently de­nied hav­ing any sex­ual re­la­tions with his ac­cuser, who was trans­ferred out of Youth Ser­vices Cen­ter (YSC) and re­mains em­ployed by DYRS.

But the al­le­ga­tion and re­sult­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion also caused con­sid­er­able col­lat­eral dam­age in­side the agency.

John Dowdy, act­ing deputy su­per­in­ten­dent of the YSC was fired in the course of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and has since filed a law­suit say­ing Mr. Stan­ley at­tempted to elicit neg­a­tive in­for­ma­tion about other man­agers.

Mr. Dowdy said he de­clined. In re­sponse, the law­suit states, Mr. Stan­ley warned Mr. Dowdy “that he needed to de­cide where his loy­al­ties lied.”

Mr. Stan­ley pressed him for dirt on man­agers whom Mr. Stan­ley per­ceived as ri­vals or de­trac­tors, ac­cord­ing to the law­suit. When Mr. Dowdy again de­clined, Mr. Stan­ley told him he “bet­ter get on board” and de­cide whose team he was on or he “wouldn’t be around for long,” it states.

On July 12, Mr. Dowdy was placed on ad­min­is­tra­tive leave. When he sig­naled his in­tent to hire a lawyer and file an equal em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­nity com­plaint he was fired, the law­suit states.

Nu­mer­ous other em­ploy­ees at YSC, the city’s de­ten­tion fa­cil­ity for youths await­ing com­mit­ment, were ei­ther de­moted or trans­ferred with lit­tle ex­pla­na­tion other than Mr. Stan­ley was “re­struc­tur­ing” DYRS man­age­ment.

“It’s a pat­tern of ar­bi­trary fir­ings and other moves that don’t make sense,” the lawyer for Mr. Dowdy, act­ing deputy su­per­in­ten­dent of the YSC said. “I just don’t have a grip on how the depart­ment op­er­ates ex­cept on an ad hoc ba­sis.”

Replied Pe­dro Ribeiro, spokesman for the mayor, “DYRS is com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing a safe en­vi­ron­ment for both staff and chil­dren, and will make changes to per­son­nel as needed to main­tain that safe en­vi­ron­ment.”

In a re­cent in­ter­view, the su­per­vi­sor named in the sex­ual-abuse al­le­ga­tions— a veteran ju­ve­nile cor­rec­tions of­fi­cer who main­tains his in­no­cence — said he has worked for good de­part­ments and bad ones in his 18 years on the job, but he’s never ex­pe­ri­enced any­thing quite like DYRS un­der Mr. Stan­ley.

“He’s will­ing to learn, but he doesn’t seem to know any­thing about it,” the su­per­vi­sor said of Mr. Stan­ley’s grasp of youth re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion. “The prob­lem is that peo­ple are job-scared. Fir­ings ap­pear mo­ti­vated to pro­tect Stan­ley.”

Be­yond con­cerns about lead­er­ship and char­ac­ter that have been voiced at all lev­els, the su­per­vi­sor said an ide­o­log­i­cal lit­mus test is in place that of­fends veteran youth cor­rec­tions work­ers. He said when he was vy­ing for act­ing deputy su­per­in­ten­dent at YSC, he told Mr. Stan­ley he was will­ing to lock down a youth who acted vi­o­lently while in cus­tody. The two butted heads, he said, with Mr. Stan­ley in­sist­ing on a softer ap­proach fa­vored by the ad­vo­cacy com­mu­nity.

“I ap­pealed to Stan­ley to take the hand­cuffs off the staff and let them do their jobs,” he said. “There’s no re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion go­ing on any­way.”

THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Neil Stan­ley, di­rec­tor of the D.C. Depart­ment of Youth Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Ser­vices, faces an over­sight hear­ing Fri­day that will ex­am­ine his lead­er­ship of the agency op­er­at­ing un­der a con­sent de­cree and still re­cov­er­ing from years of abu­sive de­ten­tion poli­cies.

BAR­BARA L. SAL­IS­BURY/THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Tak­ing ad­van­tage of un­sea­son­ably warm weather, a group sits Thurs­day on the steps of the Long­worth House Of­fice Build­ing near the Capi­tol. Tem­per­a­tures in the Dis­trict hit 70 de­grees Thurs­day.

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