Politics & Government

Internal investigation of Jefferson County social services office concluding

Audrey Haynes
Audrey Haynes

FRANKFORT — An internal investigation into one of Kentucky's largest regional child protection and social services office should conclude in coming weeks, said Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Audrey Tayse Haynes.

Haynes told the Lexington Herald-Leader editorial board last week that she asked the cabinet's Office of Inspector General to look at the Jefferson County Department for Community Based Services, which handles child and adult protection and other programs, such as food stamps.

Haynes declined to say what the Office of Inspector General was investigating. She said the Office of Inspector General is also investigating another regional office in Kentucky but declined to name it.

Jill Midkiff, a spokeswoman for the cabinet, said more details about the investigations will be released when the reports are final, which Haynes said she hopes happens in the next several weeks.

"These are not targeted investigations," Midkiff said. "The purpose of the OIG's involvement in these other regions is to look into some things that were found in Jefferson County to see if those issues are unique to Jefferson County or if they are systemic."

Social workers from the Jefferson County office have testified several times before state legislative committees in the past two years about problems at one of the cabinet's largest offices. In January 2012, Jefferson County staff told a Senate Health and Welfare Committee that problems at the office include high staff turnover, alleged intimidation by supervisors for speaking out about problems, and unfair reprimands for taking work home when overtime was denied and for not closing out old cases in a timely manner.

The cabinet's Office of Inspector General oversees hospital, nursing home, day care and other inspections, but can investigate other departments within the cabinet at the secretary's request.

In 2007, the Office of Inspector General conducted a review of child protection in Hardin County and found that workers lied in court, falsified documents and mocked families. After the release of that report, the state announced that it was firing six employees. A seventh employee accused of misconduct retired.