INDIANAPOLIS – Department of Child Services Director Jim Payne resigned Monday after a scathing report came out Sunday revealing his personal involvement in a neglect case concerning his grandchildren.
Daniels accepted the resignation but defended his longtime appointee in strong language.
“Attacks on his record have ranged from innocently ignorant to despicably political and self-interested," he said. "His resignation does not alter the plain truth that thousands of Indiana children are better off, and many are alive only because of the passionate and devoted leadership of this fine public servant.”
Payne’s resignation letter said he was leaving in fairness to his family and DCS colleagues.
“I will not allow this personal, family tragedy to be misused to distort the positive performance of all DCS employees, which has been recognized across the nation as one of the biggest turnaround stories.”
The announcement from Daniels came during a news conference that House and Senate Democrats were holding calling for an ethics investigation into the case.
“It seems to be an agency in turmoil,” said Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson.
Republicans on a committee discussing several DCS issues avoided comment except to say it was handled within the executive branch.
“This has been a distraction to us,” said Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle. “We are ready to move on.”
The Indianapolis Star reported Sunday that even as he ran DCS, Payne became immersed in the case, which began in 2010 when his grandchildren were taken from their mother by his agency as she was locked in a divorce and custody battle with Payne’s son.
Payne helped his son’s lawyer draft a legal brief critical of his own agency’s work when DCS decided to give the children back to their mother, the newspaper reported. During a time when Payne was given custody of the children, he received transportation assistance from the agency despite earning more than $130,000 and having a state-issued vehicle. The Code of Conduct that Payne instituted at DCS also forbids employees and top officials from “personal and private interests” such as intervening in a case involving relatives, the Star reported.
DCS officials said Sunday that Payne separated his professional role at the agency from his personal role as a grandparent. They agency even hired a retired Illinois caseworker to handle the case.
Daniels appointed Payne – a Marion County juvenile court judge – in 2005 to reform Indiana’s long-troubled child welfare system. Abuse and neglect deaths have fallen under his leadership.
DCS Chief of Staff John Ryan will immediately take over the agency. He has recently been handling all major announcements.
“I have full confidence in John Ryan,” Holdman said. “He is very capable and well-respected.”
Democrats also hailed him as bringing a more cooperative nature to the agency.
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