In an Enterprise article dated July 2, County Commissioner Dan Stacey said there are "significant issues existing in Social Services."
These issues are not new. The difficult environment at Hubbard County Social Services has existed since the appointment of Deb Vizecky as director in 2016. Vizecky's micromanaging of the department interrupted and confused day-to-day operations of Social Services and her workers.
Under the previous director, Daryl Bessler, Social Services ran smoothly. Bessler believed in his people and let them do their jobs. Vizecky does not let these same people do their jobs, rather she continually second-guesses them, putting Social Services at a standstill.
Stacey, at board meetings when issues arose, would simply say, "You two need to meet and work any issues out." However, that was easier said than accomplished due to her frequent absence from the office (which apparently continues) and failure to return calls. I was willing to meet on weekends or after-hours. However, because she resides in Lincoln County, Minn., some 200-plus miles from Park Rapids, it was not possible.
I recently read that Vizecky was taking over the duties and responsibilities of the child protection supervisor again (this has happened before). The previous times it did not go well and Social Service staff found it impossible to do their jobs adequately. Child protection and law enforcement matters rarely occur Monday through Friday during the hours of 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. They usually occur in the middle of the night, and that is when the supervisor needs to be available. It is not possible for the supervisor to adequately perform their responsibilities in the evening and on weekends when she is over 200 miles away.
The county board is the supervisor of all non-elected department heads. They have the responsibility of evaluating, disciplining, hiring and firing these department heads. Stacey knew there were significant issues in Social Services, why didn't he utilize the consultant's report in her performance evaluation? The board paid over $9,000 for a consultant to evaluate the management at Social Services and make recommendations for change.
I know the board did not utilize the consultant's report because I recently received an email from ex-Commissioner Vern Massie stating he never saw the report and he was certain that ex-Commissioner Ed Smith had not seen it either.
Rather, the county board has now hired an outside law firm to investigate the issues in Social Services. The board knows the issues; they do not need a second opinion (at additional cost to taxpayers) to tell them what they are. Those issues are the frequent absences by the director, inability to be able to contact her when needed, foster parents wanting to quit because of their frustrations, over a 50 percent turnover of employees, staff unable to obtain the timely necessary approval to pay vendors, etc.
The board is shirking the duties they were elected for.
Why did the board need to hire an outside law firm? The county coordinator is an attorney and should be trained in dealing with the issues at Hubbard County Social Services. One of the duties of the coordinator is to advise and counsel the board. Using the coordinator would be no more of a conflict of interest than utilizing their labor negotiator, Ann Goering. Although Goering is a very competent attorney, she is the county board's chief labor negotiator! I doubt the employees are going to be open with her.
The board needs to step up to the plate. They should provide a corrective action plan with a timeline. If the issues are not corrected, the board should take the appropriate action, including termination, if necessary.