By Dan Hust
LIBERTY The new commissioner of the Sullivan County Division of Health and Family Services isn’t yet familiar to locals, but his deputy certainly is.
Randy Parker was hired last month by the Legislature to replace Chris Cunningham as the leader of one of the county’s largest divisions, overseeing nurses, social workers, health aides and more in the provision of social services countywide.
He’s just appointed a deputy, as well. Jeffersonville resident, chiropractor and former county legislator David Sager has replaced the now-retired Alicia Frankel as the division’s second-in-command.
Though he’s worked for several upstate counties’ social services departments, Parker arrives from the Richland County, Ohio Children Services Board, where he was executive director.
That tenure ended under mysterious circumstances, however, as Parker was put on paid administrative leave in May, according to several news reports.
The Children Services Board voted 6-4 to do so after an executive session, said WMFD-TV’s report, which also stated that Board President Nancy Joyce resigned as soon as the leave was announced.
No reason was given, and Parker had not returned calls made by the Democrat by press time yesterday.
On paid administrative leave until August 8, Parker left the agency’s employ that month with a $42,000 severance package and the promise from the board not to interfere with future job searches, said another news report in the Mansfield (OH) News Journal.
But as a consequence, the Children Services Board would not provide a favorable or unfavorable reference letter, only disclosing dates of employment, positions held and salaries to any inquiries.
The same report also listed a battle with the county’s juvenile court judge, with the judge blaming Parker for not turning over a security video for one of his cases, and the Children Services Board arguing the judge was prejudiced against Parker. (A letter to Sullivan County from the agency’s attorney indicated the video had been accidentally overwritten.)
A Google search revealed an ongoing court case in Ohio with a Richland County sheriff’s deputy and former child abuse investigator who alleges Parker defamed him and wrongly accused him of poor conduct, leading to the deputy’s reassignment to road patrol.
The court initially ruled in favor of Parker’s motion to dismiss, but the deputy has appealed.
Regardless, Sullivan County officials welcomed Parker and indicated a tough, aggressive approach is desired, choosing him out of eight finalists.
“The notion that Sullivan County is an ‘easy mark’ for social services must be immediately addressed by the incoming commissioner, with particular attention focused on addressing waste, fraud, and abuse of social services in Sullivan County,” said County Manager David Fanslau. “The cost centers of the Safety-Net program, Emergency Housing, and Medicaid Medical Transportation will be priority areas for the Commissioner to address, redesign, and reduce county-share costs.
“A significant focus will be placed on investigating the eligibility of applicants and verifying their lack of income or resources,” he added. “We must take steps to ensure that the infrastructure is working efficiently for those that qualify for social services, and to equally ensure that those that may have received benefits fraudulently are brought to justice. Mr. Parker will be tasked with reviewing and redesigning protocols and systems that will maximize efficiency and reduce the costs to the county’s property taxpayers.”
Parker has more than 20 years of experience, according to Fanslau, about half of that in New York State. Fanslau said he redesigned the Ohio agency’s service delivery, resulting in a cash balance that was two-thirds of the agency’s annual operating budget.
Parker will earn $86,000 a year with the county (not including benefits).
A new role
Working directly underneath Parker, Dave Sager is returning to county government a year after he chose not to run for re-election as the county’s District 1 legislator.
“David has experience with the county government both as a former coroner and a former legislator, as well as an advanced or graduate-level degree in the health field,” Fanslau affirmed.
He said Sager applied for the commissionership himself, then expressed interest in being the deputy when Parker was chosen.
“The New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) has approved David’s qualifications to serve in the capacity of Commissioner of the Social Services District. The Deputy Commissioner has the same statutory minimum qualifications required,” he explained.
Sager will be paid just over $76,000 a year, not including benefits.
“There is a need to ensure that there is adequate management personnel on board to address the requirements of the Social Services District,” said Fanslau. “This position has numerous responsibilities and is needed to fulfill the expectations of both the state and county.”