Joint Legislative Budget Committee members questioned why they were hearing from Michael Dellner, operations chief at the Department of Child Safety, rather than Greg McKay, the agency’s director, since the Dec. 15 meeting had been on the calendar for weeks.
Dellner said he did not know the location of his boss.
Agency spokesman Doug Nick said after the hearing McKay had told key committee members and staffers he would not be attending. Committee Chairman Rep. Justin Olson, R-Mesa, however, said no one told him that, calling McKay’s no-show “a surprise to me.”
Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, said McKay, as the “hand-picked guy” of Gov. Doug Ducey, should have been there – and should have had the answers.
“He set certain benchmarks himself, like to reduce the backlog (of inactive cases) to 1,000,” Farley said.
“Well, it’s almost 15,000,” Farley continued. “And he can’t show up to defend these numbers?”
The vote to find the agency’s report unacceptable may be largely symbolic. But Olson said it should be seen as a message to McKay – and the Ducey administration – that any request for even more taxpayer dollars will receive sharp scrutiny.
“If the agency’s going to ask for additional resources, we need to see how those additional resources are going to solve the problem,” Olson said. “We give them these resources and yet they’ve not hired the staff to address the backlog. They clearly have not been used for the purpose we were told they would be used for.”
And Olson questioned whether DCS is even paying attention to the Legislature.
“It feels like many times we’re establishing policy and that policy isn’t being implemented,” he said, as the general oversight of the agency is up to the governor. Olson called that “frustrating.”
But he declined to criticize Ducey, saying he believes the agency and child welfare is “a high priority” for the governor.