Is Spotsylvania Social Services Director Going to be Fired?
At the September 25th Board of Supervisors meeting, a citizen stated that Department of Social Services (DSS) Director Gail Crooks was placed on administrative leave, almost certainly due to Board members perception that she has mishandled a recent child welfare case. I have no inside insights on this situation. What we do know is that at the September 11th Board meeting, in closed session, Director Crook’s employment was a topic of discussion. If Director Crooks has been placed on leave the public deserves to know why. Normally, personnel decisions should remain confidential, but this situation stemming from public criticism of Director Crooks and DSS presents a unique situation. The public deserves to know the rationale behind any adverse actions that may have been taken. To provide anything less challenges the priorities, transparency, values, and credibility of our local representatives.
Also at the September 25th Board meeting, Supervisors Trampe and Yakabouski rose to the occasion, by challenging inflammatory comments made by a Fredericksburg Virginia Patriots (FVP) spokesperson. On paper, the FVP proclaim to hold admirable principles. However, over at least the past several years, the FVP appear to pride themselves on taking actions that, whether intentional or not, fracture, divide, and ultimately leave our community more disconnected than before they spoke. If this outcome is not the intent of the FVP, they likely need to reevaluate their community engagement. If this outcome is their intent, then our leaders need to do more to challenge them or those supervisors associated with FVP members need to unveil themselves. While a community member can voice their opinion at public presentations within the parameters of the Board’s bylaws, each Board member can also challenge those statements. When the FVP spokesperson proclaimed that DSS kidnapped a child in the community, it was followed by silence from five of seven Board members. They effectively ceded crucial ground in the struggle for the soul of our community and missed an opportunity to stand behind our County employees.
I have shown over a period of nine months that one can act as a watchdog on government in a respectful, responsible, and informative manner. One can do so, if they desire, with the care to take stances on issues without unnecessarily antagonizing or making brash accusations. The ultimate problem with our community is not the FVP though, they are merely filling a void that could reasonably be occupied by our elected officials. The Board’s silence, at times, is contributing to the degradation of our community. That silence was no greater than when Supervisor Yakabouski claimed on September 25th that 4 Supervisors were privately pressuring the County Administrator to fire Director Crooks. Prior to the child welfare case, I can’t recall hearing a negative public comment about her work by any Board member. While it always remains a possibility that her professionalism has waned, it appears more likely that supervisors have been swayed by one case and, based on their public comments, a striking lack of understanding about how the child welfare system operates. What was striking to me is that no supervisor made any comment. None to suggest that Supervisor Yakabouski was making a false accusation. The only comment was from by Supervisor Trampe that he did not agree with the FVP’s characterization of DSS.
I offer these observations with the hope that members of our community will begin to give increased consideration to the type of community they wish to live. To embrace the idea that taking the time to express your opinion to your local officials, seeking answers to questions, seeking clarification on the reasons for the actions local officials take and in this instance the ones they choose to remain silent - matters. This is an isolated issue, but it is one that should trouble Spotsy citizens that seek good governance. If we begin to make small accommodations for poor leadership, we starve future generations of examples of proper governance and courageous leadership. Today, the fault lies with the Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors; Tomorrow, however Spotsy citizens may be unable to escape the responsibility for not demanding more of their elected representatives.