INDIANAPOLIS – Gov. Mitch Daniels accepted the resignation of longtime appointee Jim Payne on Monday – but he clearly didnt like it.
In a strongly worded statement, the governor cited Indianas improvements in child protection, specifically a sharp drop in abuse and neglect deaths.
I have accepted the resignation of Judge Jim Payne as director of the Department of Child Services. I respect his view that his family be spared further harsh criticism, and that a difficult personal dispute, not of his own making, could be misused by those with political or special interest agendas to falsely disparage the excellent work he and his DCS co-workers have done over the last eight years, Daniels said.
Attacks on his record have ranged from innocently ignorant to despicably political and self-interested. 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.
DCS chief of staff John Ryan will immediately take over the agency. Ryan had recently been handling all major announcements.
Payne, director of the Indiana Department of Child Services since 2005, resigned Monday after ethical questions were raised about his intervention into a neglect case involving his grandchildren.
His 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 conducted 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 Paynes son.
Payne helped his sons lawyer draft a legal brief critical of his own agencys 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. The agency even hired a retired Illinois caseworker to handle the case.
Daniels appointed Payne to overhaul Indianas long-troubled child welfare system. In the past year, criticism involving the agency has risen – resulting in legislators examining the agency.
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.