MANSFIELD — Richland County Children Services employees are getting used to a new sense of normalcy with the departure after 10 years of their executive director.
Board members voted Monday to approve a separation agreement with Randy Parker, who has been on paid administrative leave since May 16 and will continue on that status until Aug. 8. Parker will receive a $42,000 severance payment.
Children Services spokesman Carl Hunnell said the staff is moving on with the business of the agency.
“There are well-educated and qualified employees here who continue to keep children safe and strengthen families, just like we’ve done since 1883,” he said. “I don’t think anybody’s missed a beat.”
At Monday’s board meeting, chairman Robert Konstam asked members to come up with a list of priorities. An internal survey of staff topped the list.
“The board’s strategy is to understand as much about where the agency is right now, what we do well and what we need to work on,” Konstam said. “Once we get a handle on that, we can set some objectives.
“While we’re working through that process, (interim director) Nikki Harless seems to have a good handle on things. I don’t think we’ll need to rush the process.”
As part of Parker’s separation agreement, the two sides issued a joint statement, saying the deal was not an admission of liability or wrongdoing by either party.
Although Parker is finished working for Children Services, he remains involved with at least a couple of agency matters.
An ongoing dispute with Juvenile Court Judge Ron Spon still needs a ruling from the Fifth District Court of Appeals. Children Services has appealed the judge’s decision to overrule its motion to quash any subpoenas issued to agency employees concerning an Aug. 22 dispute between a father and a case aide.
The parent said the case aide threatened to take his recorder and ended a visit with his daughter prematurely. Spon ordered the agency to turn over the security video recording of the incident, which took place in the lobby, but that never happened. The incident reportedly has been taped over.
In January, the board voted to reject a proposed agreement to avoid a contempt hearing in the matter. Under that agreement, the board would have admitted Parker directed staff not to release the security tape in question.
While the court of appeals has not ruled in that case, it did recently rule in favor of a sheriff’s sergeant who filed a defamation suit against Parker.
Jeff McBride, who spent 21 years working with Children Services investigating crimes against children, was removed from that post in March 2011. He subsequently raised claims of defamation and interference with contract against Parker.
McBride’s complaint said Parker made published statements that he was a disruptive influence on Children Services, had inappropriate discussions with staff and was “sloughing off.”
Common Pleas Judge James DeWeese initially dismissed the suit, but the Fifth District Court of Appeals reinstated it.