Tuesday, January 25, 2000

Few want back on children's board

Only 1 of 8 seek to return to Butler panel

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — Only one of the eight former members of the Butler County Children Services Board who recently resigned at the request of the county commissioners has applied to be reappointed.

        Although the commissioners told board members they could ask to be reappointed, only Christine Hacker has taken them up on the offer.

        “They've already said they don't want us on the board,” Robert Cottrell, former board president, said Monday. “We're not interested in applying and having them tell us a second time they don't want us on the board.”

        The commissioners asked for the resignations because they wanted a board that would monitor the agency's performance more closely and would support a more open and responsive approach toward the public and the families involved with Children Services.

        Mr. Cottrell said having a board of all or almost all new faces will slow the agency's progress.

        It will take new board members a long time to familiarize themselves with the issues and with Children Services operations, he said.

        The new board will have to work toward a new mission and goals, changes in the grievance policy and the recommendations of a state audit that criticized the agency for removing too many children from their families, failing to recruit enough foster parents and being understaffed.

        “It's going to be very difficult for somebody to come into that and deal with that cold,” Mr. Cottrell said.

        He said that he and most of the board members are willing to consider any request by the commissioners to help Children Services. But they won't be involved with the agency if they're not asked, he said.

        Commissioner Mike Fox, who often clashed with Mr. Cottrell on agency policies, said having a lot of new board members won't pose a serious problem.

        “We thought it would be nice to have some of the previous board members back on,” Mr. Fox said. “But we don't want someone on the board engaged in trench warfare, fighting the changes we want.”

        So far, 15 people have ap plied to be appointed to the board, said County Administrator Derek Conklin.

        Board members receive no pay.

        There were three vacancies on the 11-member board when the commissioners asked for all the remaining members' resignations earlier this month.

        Ms. Hacker and Judy Shelton resigned soon after receiving the request. But the other six board members waited until a sometimes-contentious Jan. 13 meeting with the commissioners before resigning.

        The commissioners expect to appoint new board members within the next month.


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