MANSFIELD — The Richland County Children Services board indicated Thursday it may replace Executive Director Randy Parker.
On May 16, the board voted 6-4 to place Parker, who has been with the agency since August 2002, on paid administrative leave. Board members have not given a reason.
At a special meeting Thursday, the board met in executive session for more than 90 minutes to discuss personnel issues. The board took no action. During open session, however, board chairman Bob Konstam updated members on a lengthy conversation with director of operations Nikki Harless, who is filling in for Parker in the interim.
“We talked about the selection process for a new director when we get there,” Konstam told the board. “Nikki has told me she is most definitely a candidate.”
Konstam did not elaborate.
“The board hasn’t taken any additional action,” he said after the meeting. “That’s really the only comment I can make.”
Konstam said Harless has met with Juvenile Court Judge Ron Spon, who has been critical of Parker and Children Services operations.
Konstam asked Harless to give the board an update on how the staff is doing.
“It’s running smoothly. The staff is doing their job as usual,” Harless said. “They’re just a little anxious about not knowing the future.”
Konstam cited “transitional updates” as the reason for Thursday’s meeting.
Harless provided news on the agency’s Kinship Navigator program. Kinship caregivers include grandparents, aunts and uncles, adult cousins and adult siblings.
More than 2.7 million children in the United States are being raised by grandparents or other relatives. In Richland County, there are 265 kinship families raising 440 children.
Harless said Children Services is contracting with Mansfield and the local Urban Minority Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Outreach Program to provide kinship services.
A three-year grant that has generated $380,000 expires in September. The agency is expected to receive a new grant, possibly for less money, in July. Harless questioned whether Children Services should continue to contract with other agencies or handle the program in-house.
Board member Deb Price asked how much it would cost to manage the program in-house, and asked for a history of why Children Services contracted with other agencies.
Harless said the agency may want to house the kinship center — which it rents on West Fourth Street — at a county building with already-existing space.
The board’s next scheduled meeting is June 11.