Richardson: How did OCWI drop the ball on hiring welfare investigators? - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Voices

Richardson: How did OCWI drop the ball on hiring welfare investigators?

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Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at bill.richardson@cox.net.

Posted: Monday, March 24, 2014 1:01 pm

If I were Governor Jan Brewer, I’d want to know how the Office of Child Welfare Investigations - OCWI as it’s called - managed to hire an investigator to protect Arizona’s children who falsified his past about having been a police officer?

I’d also want to know why OCWI hired a former deputy sheriff who was forced out of his job for taking on-duty pornographic selfies?

According to the March 21, 2014, Arizona Capital Times story, 2 child welfare investigators were fired over resumes by Gary Grado, Joshua Ekrem and David Neuss were hired as part of Arizona’s effort to better protect children by establishing a police agency to investigate child crimes.

According to Grado, “Two investigators fired from state Office of Child Welfare Investigations worked for months on child abuse cases after providing false or incomplete information to get hired. One of the fired investigators, Ekrem, claimed on his resume he was a former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy. The other, Neuss, omitted during employment interviews that he quit the Pima County Sheriff’s Office in lieu of being fired for taking a pornographic photo of himself while on duty in uniform. Both men were hired after a 2012 law took effect requiring state agency heads to make “documented, good faith efforts to contact current and previous employers” of applicants to make sure they are fit for employment.” Sounds to me like an agency head didn’t follow the law.

We were told the new agency would hire retired police officers with experience investigating child crimes. It appears OCWI has been scrapping the bottom of the barrel in an attempt fill the slots that are costing taxpayers millions to do a job that is already being done by police departments, sheriff’s offices and county prosecutors. Officers experienced in investigating crimes against children don’t grow on trees. Child crimes are difficult and demanding to investigate.

Verifying employment and determining suitability to investigate child crimes doesn’t take a rocket scientist. But it does take someone who knows what they’re doing. That wasn’t the case at OCWI when they hired those two yo-yos to protect kids.

The question has to be asked, what about the qualifications of the remaining OCWI investigators who went through the same hiring process? Does the state have any more unqualified personnel who have no business being around kids and investigating crimes?

If this is how OCWI does hiring investigations, what kind of investigations are they doing when it comes to children?

While the governor and legislature were hot and heavy to run off and start a new law enforcement agency to address the inner cultural failings of Child Protective Services, they failed to look at the big picture and take into account there is already an effective and proven method of investigating crimes committed against children that local and county law enforcement uses everyday. There was no need to try and reinvent the wheel. All that’s needed is proper funding for the existing policing system.

The state still fails to properly fund training and services for the agencies that investigate crimes against children. Cities and counties are paying their own way and surely could use the millions the state is spending on their new agency that is already showing signs of poor work quality and questionable leadership practices.

For an agency that professes to be transparent, I find it disturbing that Child Protective Services Director Charles Flanagan and OCWI Chief Greg McKay didn’t comment on Grado’s story about the two investigators being fired. Maybe we’re in for more the same old secretive stuff we’ve gotten from Arizona’s child welfare agencies for years?

Brewer has invested plenty of political capital and millions of our tax dollars into a new agency to protect children. Grado’s story disclosed some inexcusable failures by OCWI. Hopefully, there was no new damage done to any kids thanks to Arizona’s most recent failure at child protection.

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