Northampton County Council is embarrassed, as it should be, over its head-in-the sand reaction to the senseless rape and murder of a 15 year old girl named Grace Packer. The woman accused of hatching this plot and then getting off as her boyfriend raped this 15-year old girl was the girl's adopting mother, Sara Packer. She was employed by NorCo between 2003 and 2010 and was amazingly an adoption supervisor. This raises all kinds of questions about NorCo's Children Youth and families (CYF) division, especially since a caseworker there was sentenced to 12 years behind bars in 2010 for sexually abusing a child. Rather than answer those questions, which would reassure the public and provide some solace to CYF workers, both Council and Executive John Brown hung that department out to dry while ignoring the press.
Brown, whose last updated the county website with "News" on November 7, has never understood the importance of being transparent and keeping the public informed. His Council is just as bad. Instead of addressing the jail, reassessment, or the low morale in the county workforce, meetings have deteriorated into 20-minute sessions in which Council members pat themselves on the back.
The Brown administration both ignored press inquiries from NBC10 and WFMZ-TV69 concerning Grace Packer, or actively misled them by saying that Sara Packer is not a current employee. NBC-10's Deanna Durante was ignored by all Council members, too,save for Ken Kraft. He put her in touch with Barron.
Barron, whose career started in group homes, was unwilling to circle the wagons like Council and Brown. He reviewed Packer's records and determined she had been employed by the County CYF as an adoption supervisor for seven years, between 2003 and 2010, when she was fired over, believe it or not, the sexual abuse of Grace Packer by her the husband. Instead of stonewalling, Barron released this public information to the media. He did the job that the Brown administration refused to do.
And he paid for it.
During one session with WFMZ-TV69, a camera zoomed in on his computer screen, and for less than a second, showed a number that might be Packer's social security number. Executive John Brown was made aware of this error.But instead of notifying WFMZ so they could correct this error, he tucked this information away so he could blast Barron at a Council meeting that occurred over a week after his discovery. He also had Barron's access to computer records cut off.
Council wanted to make political hay, too. Hayden Phillips was as quiet as a church mouse when NBC-10's Deanna Durante came to Council to demand answers. But once she was gone and out of the way, he decided to exact revenge against the man who defeated him in the last Controller race. He asked Council Solicitor Phil Lauer to draft a memo indicating what laws were broken and laying out Council's options.
Lauer told him what I had said here. Because the disclosure was unintentional, there is no criminal liability. Unsatisfied with that answer, Phillips then referred Lauer's opinion to DA John Morganelli,and without authority from the rest of Council.
Morganelli reached the same conclusion that Lauer did before him, and that I did before both of them. There is no criminal liability. Barron's disclosure was unintentional. The DA also refused to refer this matter to the US Attorney, so Barron can stow his rubber underwear for the time being. You can read the District Attorney's opinion below.
Speaking of criminal liability, if anyone acted intentionally, it is John Brown. He was aware of a continuing disclosure of an employee's social security number and did nothing to stop it. If he really cared about employee privacy, he would have reacted immediately. Also, when you prevent a government official from doing his job, that's called obstruction.
In the meantime, Council's Human Services Chair Seth Vaughn has refused to invite CYF and Human Services officials to a hearing to answer some questions that would violate no one's privacy, would reassure the public, and would give the CYF division a much-needed boost in the arm. He has refused to convene a hearing because the questions come from me,just as Council has failed to lest their county emailadresses on the county website.
They are afraid someone might ask them a question.
Instead of burying their heads in the sand or playing vindictive political games against the person who beat him in the Controller's race, Hayden Phillips and Seth Vaughn needs to get answers concerning the following:
1) How a CYF caseworker is hired;
2) What training a certifications and continuing education are required;
3) How complaints against a CYF caseworker are handled;
4) How many complaints have been made against CYF caseworkers, year by year;
5) What is the caseload of each caseworker;
6) Does this caseload exceed the state recommendation:
7) How are caseworkers supervized,and how are supervisors themselves supervized;
8) How are foster parents selected;
9) How many foster parents are there in NC?
10) How are foster parents paid?
11) Are caseworkers allowed to be foster parents?
12) How are complaints against foster parents handled?