City Desk

Did CFSA Director Search Violate Court Order?

In July, Children's Rights, the New York-based group behind a long-standing lawsuit against the District over its handling of children filed a contempt motion in U.S. District Court over the pre-and-post-Banita Jacks troubles at CFSA.  The court battle over CFSA continues to be hot.

Last fall, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas F. Hogan issued an order stipulating a series of directives. One of those stipulations involved the future selection of a permanent director at CFSA. On Tuesday, Fenty announced his selection of interim director Roque Gerald to take over in a permanent capacity. Hogan had stipulated that "the Court Monitor and Plaintiffs will be included in the selection process for the permanent Director."

It is that order that is now being seriously questioned. When appointing top posts, Fenty isn't known as a big outreach guy. His appointment of Chief Cathy Lanier is exhibit A. Now his selection of Gerald is coming under scrutiny.

The Plaintiffs–Children's Rights–say they were never consulted during the selection process. "We were not included in the process and I think given the problems the agency has had over the last several years the choice of the director was critically important," says Children's Rights Executive Director Marcia Robinson Lowry. She adds that this violated the court order.

This point may be brought up in the next round at U.S. District Court, Lowry says. "We have an open contempt motion that is going to be briefed to the court...This is another violation," Lowry adds.

Attorney General Peter Nickles has a different take.

Nickles says Fenty and Co. did an exhaustive search for the CFSA director slot. "I'm not going to get into numbers," he says. "We both interviewed and called people...Dr. Gerald put his name in the hat and he was interviewed."

Yesterday, we reported that Councilmember Tommy Wells, who chairs the Committee on Human Services which covers CFSA, was left out of the loop. Charles Allen, Wells' chief of staff, was not aware of anyone being interviewed for the position.

Lowry says Nickles only notified her on Monday that Gerald had been selected. Nickles says there was a reason why Children's Rights wasn't consulted during the vetting process.

"It didn't seem at least to us to have them interview people who weren't going to be seriously considered," Nickles says. "It's tough to get people to come in if they think they are going to be answerable to the mayor but also to the court monitors and advocates."

Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 Nickles goes on to sharpen his point. "We have a terrible problem in getting people interested in being considered because of the buzz saw they see themselves getting into," Nickles explains i.e. heading an agency with a court monitor. "As far as I know the plaintiffs haven't liked any of our directors."

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I asked Nickles if there was any reason to have liked the previous directors? He stated that the previous directors at least tried to make the agency better. And that, well, they now have a great director in Gerald.

Lowry is skeptical with the Gerald selection. "Leadership is absolutely critical," she says. "The previous director was from inside the agency. The person they just appointed was from inside the agency."

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