"Surprised and concerned" DSS Board Chairman Lynda McDaniel responds to Ashe Mountain Times article
Last modified: Feb. 4
Lynda McDaniel said she was, “surprised and concerned,” upon reading comments made concerning the potential future of the Ashe County Department of Social Services in a Jan. 24 article in the Ashe Mountain Times.
McDaniel, the current Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Ashe County Department of Social Services, released a letter on Jan. 31, an attempt to answer concerns about DSS made by Ashe County Commissioner Judy Poe during a Jan. 7 county commissioners work session.
“I am writing to express my surprise and concern upon reading the article in the (Ashe) Mountain Times about the potential change in oversight of the Ashe County Department of Social Services,” wrote McDaniel. “As a member of the Board of Social Services for many years, you are certainly aware of the transparency with which (Ashe Department of Social Services Director) Donna Weaver has directed that Department.”
McDaniel said the letter was in response to a Jan. 24 article in the Ashe Mountain Times where Poe was quoted as saying, “We’ve always heard that social services was off-limits, that county commissioners can’t do anything with it. Since it’s one of our biggest expenses, we need to know what programs they’ve got, and where they’re spending the funds. To me, I’d like to see (DSS) put under (Ashe County Manager Pat) Mitchell’s (oversight), instead of an independent board.”
According to Mitchell, HB 438 passed in 2012, gives county commissioners some flexibility in the way social services and public health departments are organized. The move could allow the dissolution of the independent board that currently oversees DSS operations, in favor of an appointed manager - in this case Mitchell.
“DSS has a more than $50 million budget, and as commissioners, we know almost nothing about it,” said Poe on Jan. 7.
McDaniel’s letter disputes that, however.
“You, along with all other members of the Board of Commissioners, met for an entire afternoon in April, 2011, when Ms. Weaver gave a detailed explanation of the DSS budget and gave opportunity for questions,” wrote McDaniel. “She also goes over the budget each year with the Board of Social Services and we always have opportunity to obtain any additional information we need to carry out our duties.”
The letter acknowledged DSS’s large budget but said much of the money goes toward state and federally mandated programs.
“In some cases, there is a required county match and in others no match is required,” wrote McDaniel. “Medicaid, by far the largest item in the budget, requires no county match.”
McDaniel said commissioners, “have always had complete control over the discretionary county funds in the budget,” and said Weaver has gone over the budget in detail with Mitchell.
“In addition to these organized meetings designed to provide detailed explanations of the budget, I know Ms. Weaver would be happy to answer questions or provide information at any time,” wrote McDaniel.
McDaniel also wrote that the AMT article, “was particularly disturbing,” and could have given readers the impression Ashe County DSS is “rudderless,” and said the idea was, “completely unfounded.”
During the Jan. 7 work-session, Poe said commissioners should be well informed on any funds, including both federal and state, that come into Ashe County.
“I believe we, as commissioners, should at least know what is being funded and who is funding it,” said Poe on Jan. 7. “There are going to be a lot of (state and federal budget) cuts coming down, and we need to know what is being funded and what isn’t.”
In the same session, Poe was asked by Mitchell if she felt there would be any value in placing a commissioner back on DSS’ independent board. Poe said she did not.
“I think we all need to know what is going on,” Poe said. “I would feel more comfortable if the county had more involvement than an independent board. Do they go through the books and budget like we do?”
McDaniel said Weaver has directed DSS for more than 25 years, “in an exemplary manner,” and said the board has complete confidence in her leadership, and also addressed Poe’s concerns about the board’s oversight.
“The (DSS) board members are offered an opportunity for a day of training in their duties and responsibilities and receive a detailed handbook detailing the history of the boards, its legal status, ethical standards, legal authority, powers and duties,” wrote McDaniel, who also said the board meets monthly to obtain updates on issues facing the county. As board chairman, McDaniel also said she meets with Weaver as needed on issues requiring attention.
“I have always been particularly impressed with the detailed oversight that Ms. Weaver take with the budget,” wrote McDaniel. “She carefully manages the budget to ensure that the agency is acting in the best interests of the citizens of the county and that the agency is being a good steward of the taxpayers’ funds.”
DSS has been able to return funds to the county and to the state at the end of the year, “for many years,” according to McDaniel, who also said Weaver works hard to “ensure that the county does not have to come up with additional money (for DSS) mid-year,” despite the changes at the state and federal level.
“Having worked in budget and management for over 25 years in the NC Department of Health and Human Services, I understand the intricacies of the DSS budget and I am convinced that Ms. Weaver is managing that budget expertly,” wrote McDaniel, who said she agreed with Ashe County Board of Commissioner’s Chairman Larry
Rhodes who was quoted in the Jan. 24 article as saying, “If it’s not broke (DSS), don’t fix it.”
“The system is definitely not broke,” wrote McDaniel.
Weaver is scheduled to address commissioner’s concerns on Feb. 4.