Mayor meets with DHS workers - Philadelphia News

August 5, 2008 4:00:33 PM PDT
The Pennsylvania Convention Center was the scene this morning as many of the workers for the Department of Human Services were responding to a rather stern invitation from Mayor Nutter. He wanted to tell the department's 2,000 employees face-to-face what he expects of them and how the still evolving crisis over the death of 14-year old Danieal Kelly is unacceptable.

Action News has learned that the Nutter administration will be pushing for new disciplinary procedures for DHS workers: rules that would make it easier to get rid of bad apples.

Dana Poindexter is one of two DHS case workers charged along with seven other people in the death of Kelly in 2006. She was the second child to die under his watch and the grand jury report spells out a history of warnings about his job performance.

Yet, he remained on the job until the charges were announced last week.

"Of course we need to take a look at the disciplinary process. If you read the report, there were attempts to discipline him. And it's a very difficult and onerous, somewhat convoluted process," said the mayor.

Nutter would not comment on current contract negotiations, but sources say discipline is an issue that will come up in talks with the two unions representing DHS workers.

The Mayor met with the entire staff during two sessions at the Convention Center.

"We have to hold our providers accountable for their work. We're going to hold our workers accountable. But they also need tools and resources to do their job and that's our responsibility here in the government," said Nutter.

The mayor was walking a fine line here today. On the one hand, demanding a better effort, and, on the other, encouraging those who do try their best. Some say this entire episode has them looking over their shoulders.

"It makes life kind of difficult for me to go back and do my job everyday wondering if someone's looking over my shoulder, wondering if I'm making a mistake, will I be next," said case worker James Parker.

Some say morale is low. But, others say they have been lifted by the Mayor's encouragement and support.

"These people do a lot, they do a whole lot. They put their lives at risk every day and I appreciate what they're doing for our city," said DHS staffer Joanne Carlin.

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