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Turmoil in Sullivan Family Services; legal battle escalates

By Fritz Mayer
July 22, 2014

The battle that has been brewing for nearly two years in the Sullivan County Department of Family Services (DFS) boiled into the open on July 22, with a lawyer for DFS commissioner Randy Parker issuing a press release that harshly criticizes an investigation that targeted Parker.

The legislature in June passed a resolution to spend $175,000 to pay for an investigation into various complaints within DFS.

The press release from Orseck Law Offices says, “After the resolution was passed by the legislature, the County Attorney's office admitted, in a sworn affidavit, that the purpose of the resolution was specifically to hire a firm to try to smear Parker. Once the legislature discovered that this $175,000 was to be spent in a vengeful attempt to spite one man several members properly sought to revoke the resolution. The County Attorney's Office responded vehemently, wrongfully threatening and attempting to bully the legislators.”

A meeting has been scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at the government center in Monticello on July 24 to rescind the resolution in question.


The press release from Orseck Law Offices:

SULLIVAN COUNTY DFS COMMISIONER, RANDY PARKER, CONTINUES TO FACE OBSTRUCTIVE TACTICS BY DFS AND SULLIVAN COUNTY EMPLOYEES IN HIS STRUGGLE TO FIGHT FRAUD AND ABUSE.

In October of 2012, the Sullivan County Legislature hired Randy Parker as Commissioner of the Division of Family Health and Social Services. Prior to that time, the division had been plagued by fraud and administrative deficiencies that included:

- 250 homeless individuals placed in area motels
- 400 open Child Protective Investigations
- 100 overdue Child Protective Investigations
- 5,000 repayment agreements in default
- 800 un-pursued fraud cases
- 32 million dollars in uncollected child support payments
- Rampant misadministration and fraud associated with social service employees

Since Randy Parker took over the position of Commissioner, he has enacted numerous reforms and managerial appointments that have improved the administration and credibility of the department, including:

- 11 individuals and 0 families now placed in area motels
- Causing approximately 64 arrests for fraud (there had been only 2 arrests during the 5-6 years before Parker was commissioner).
- Acting upon 38 outstanding arrest warrants in addition to the approximately 50 arrests already made.
- Arrests of 4 DFS employees for creating fictitious or non-entitled recipients and vendors.
- The creation of the Fraud Director position and the hiring of Gerard Dietz to investigate employee and vendor fraud, waste and abuse.
(Dietz's position has recently been transferred to the Sullivan County District Attorney's Office where he continues to assist Parker in investigating DSS employee/recipient/vendor fraud.)
- Hiring a managing attorney, a position authorized by the legislature which had been vacant for 10 years, to help fight fraud, ensure the collection of benefit repayments, and to vigorously prosecute

While accomplishing all of the above, Parker, was still able to reduce the Division's operating expenditures by $1,000,000 for each year he was in office.

Upon Commissioner Parker's arrival there has been a veil of secrecy that had shielded tl1e DFS legal department and previous administration in high profile Child Protective, Foster Care and Adoptio11n1atters. The effort by Parker to uncover the wrongdoing by individuals in those departments is ongoing.

Commissioner Parker's efforts to clear up fraud and neglect in the department has, inevitably, met with constant resistance and obstructionism from many Department of Social Services employees, many of whom had previously grown accustomed to a work environment that had utterly lacked meaningful or competent supervision.

Colleen Cunningham, sister of the previous Commissioner of Social Services, and an attorney for the Division, has filed a claim against Parker and the County of Sullivan. She claims that Commissioner Parker has effectively stripped her of her responsibilities by hiring a managing attorney to ensure that DFS attorneys are working together, and by insisting upon strict enforcement of anti-fraud policies and procedures. Cunningham was the attorney of record for many of the aforementioned cases which had unfortunately been left inactive, un-prosecuted, and uncollected.

The Cunningham's have a long standing association with senior Sullivan County politicians, executives, and party chiefs. Not surprisingly, several county officials have acted to obstruct Parker's fraud fighting activities, and even his ability to defend himself against the Cunningham claim. The County Manager's office, in conjunction with the County Attorney's office, caused a resolution to be passed to fund $175,000, of the county taxpayer's money, to pay for an ''investigation'' of the Department of Family Services. After the resolution was passed by the legislature, tl1e County Attorney's office admitted, in a sworn affidavit, that the purpose of the resolution was specifically to hire a firm to try to smear Parker.

Once the legislature discovered that this $175,000 was to be spent in a vengeful attempt to spite one man several members properly sought to revoke the resolution. The County Attorney’s Office responded vehemently, wrongfully threatening and attempting to bully the legislators. A copy of our memorandum concerning these threats, are attached, and they have been forwarded to members of the legislature.

This resolution is slated for review before the legislature on Thursday, July 24th. We urge all concerned citizens of Sullivan County to contact their County legislator, and tell them that spending $175,000 for a spite campaign, against a Commissioner that has accomplished so mutch good for our County, is wrong, suspicious, and hugely distasteful .

Commissioner Randy Parker is absolutely dedicated to eradicating fraud from the Department of Fanuly Services, and especially any fraud or neglect that may be perpetuated by some DFS employees. He will be undeterred by any pretense employee lawsuits, or by the obstruction of those county employees that had been too-closely affiliated with the old Departn1ent of Family Services regime.

He would also like it to be known that he is incredibly grateful for the support and hard work of the majority of Family Services employees; those that take their jobs seriously, and who continue protect and serve our County's most vulnerable citizens.