How did it get to
Two State employees told to leave DCJFS; will not be replaced
By Bob Robinson
Is there a “toxic environment” at the Jobs & Family Service Center
on Wagner Avenue? That accusation has been made. Or is the JFS Director
simply doing her job and protecting taxpayer dollars?
There is a rift between the County and the State. Two State employees
have been told to leave and not return. They moved out and were
relocated to Montgomery County. Workshops conducted by those employees
are continuing at the Greenville Library, at least for the time being.
According to rumors, County JFS Director Gracie Ratliff had kicked the
State people out of Darke County Jobs & Family Services.
I once told Darke County Commissioners that if I heard rumors that got
my attention, I’d ask for their comment before doing anything. I did
that. I didn’t have an email contact for Commissioner Mike Rhoades, so
I asked that the request be passed on to him. No response from
Commissioner Rhoades. Commissioner Diane Delaplane said she didn’t know
anything about it but would get back to me if she heard anything. I’ve
heard nothing more from Commissioner Delaplane.
Commissioner Mike Stegall chose to be (in his words) my “Channel 2
Reporter … news you can depend on,” responding that everything was
hunky-dory (my words, not his). In part:
“An employee … for the State Job Center was let go yesterday for not
doing her job. According to Gracie, who has a file on the
employee, she was reading books at the front desk as people came in,
doing personal work, and basically just not performing for a long time.
Gracie said that a new employee could be brought in if she wanted one.
The JFS (receives) about $15,000 a year for her being here. As you can
see, money was not the issue, performance was. So, I guess you
could say the State Job services were kicked out, but not really!”
He closed by noting that he wished they had five more directors like
“She’s the best!” he said.
That didn’t help much, but before I could follow Stegall’s suggestion
and contact Ratliff, she contacted me. I posed my concerns. Actually,
there were two employees who were told to leave, and as I had
anticipated, the picture presented was not “hunky dory” (again, my
words). The tone of her emails matched the tone I saw in the several
I’d already received.
The growing conflict was heated, evidently building over a period of
time, and has resulted in considerable animosity. Since my initial
inquiry I’ve sifted through over 4,000 words of “he said she said.”
What I’ve been able to glean from this comes down to: 1) State services
were not kicked out. Ratliff said two State employees were told to
leave and not come back. They are State department employees, not
County employees. 2) They were told to leave for doing personal work in
the office. 3) The employees were not fired; they were re-assigned. 4)
The State supervisor offered to meet with Ratliff to resolve the issue.
Ratliff refused, saying she has complained before without results. She
doesn’t “have time to babysit … anymore.” 5) Ratliff said she will not
be asking for replacements at this time, and there will be no loss of
service to clients. 6) However, she did offer to have them replaced,
but the State has refused. 7) The employees were re-assigned to
Montgomery County and their workshops were moved to the Greenville
Library. 8) The County loses $15,000 a year in revenue.
After that, it gets fuzzy and emotional. Ratliff said there were
continuing issues of doing personal work and “they chased her out of
there (referring to another location) and sent her to me full time.”
Operative word: chased. The other side said there will be no
replacement because Ratliff’s temperament has led to a “toxic
According to Ratliff, it is her office and she had spoken to the
employees several times about the problem. According to the complaints,
the employees had specific jobs to do, were responsible to their State
bosses (not Ratliff), and while one had “volunteered” to sit at the
front desk when needed, the files were confidential and couldn’t be
worked on when that happened. Ratliff said the employee was “assigned”
to fill in when needed, that all files were confidential including
those of the regular person at that desk; also every employee’s job was
to serve all persons needing help, regardless of the type of need. She
said that the employees were doing personal work even in their own
Ratliff had said there would be no loss of service to Darke County
residents, yet it has been reported that in one case a supervisor had
to be asked to help out because they were “short-handed.” It was also
complained that some clients had been turned away due to not enough
help in the Center.
That part is unconfirmed, but frankly I’m tired of the “he said she
said.” Unless the two employees (technically one-and-a-half) were doing
absolutely nothing – which I don’t believe – I have to think there
would be some overload due to today’s job environment and two fewer
people. I cannot and will not accept the statement that there will be
no loss of service to Darke County residents.
One of the first questions I would ask is who would be doing their
jobs, assuming these two employees were there for specific State
programs? Can remaining State employees, or County employees, do them?
However, I cannot accept, nor will I condone, any employee doing
personal work on employer time, especially when my tax dollars help pay
for that employee’s services. If I’m an employer, that would be allowed
on my ‘dime’ maybe two minutes.
Ratliff told me she wasn’t going to ask for replacements, yet she did.
The State refused. Why? If this behavior was documented, why was it not
addressed by their State supervisors? Can a State employee be fired for
poor performance? I would hope so. But they weren’t.
I have heard the Commissioners voice public support of the JFS Director
many times in the past – never simply offered, but always in response
to questions from concerned citizens. Some of those concerns were
regarding Ratliff’s handling of issues at the County Home (as acting
Director) if I remember right.
The support remains undaunted if I can assume Stegall speaks for them
all. They want five more just like her.
As a taxpayer, I have more concerns…
A department director serves at the pleasure of the County
Commissioners. It is their responsibility to oversee appointed
directors just as it is the director’s responsibility to oversee his or
her employees. Were they aware of what has been going on? If they
weren’t, shouldn’t my query have motivated them to find out? Aren’t
they curious that the State has evidently refused to send replacements
to her? Aren’t they curious that she refused to meet with the State to
try to resolve the issue?
Maybe Ratliff was justified. Maybe not. Finding out about – and
resolving – the issue before it got to this point was the
Then there’s the $15,000 in lost revenue for Wagner Avenue that no one
seems to care about. Stegall was unconcerned, saying that money wasn’t
the issue. Ratliff said it’s “not gonna break me.”
I’m glad her funding is so well off. It would seem to me, however, that
in these tight economic times even an amount as small (by government
standards) as $15,000 in taxpayer funds would be important to all
public officials. That’s a huge amount to most of us.
Is that $15K part of the JFS budget or is it rent on a property that I
believe is still in the red? If it’s JFS budget, does that mean the
Commissioners might be asked to replace it from the General Fund in the
future? Or is it lost rental income? Regardless, that $15K is taxpayer
money and as a taxpayer, I’m concerned about its loss to the County.
Ratliff said a couple times… “I’m a taxpayer, too.”
Yup. That she is. Just like me. And tens of thousands of other Darke
Countians. I would think this would be another reason why the situation
should have been hashed out and some resolution reached before it got
to this point.