Seeking the truth in DHS housecleaning
June 17, 2001
State legislative leaders are right to seek the truth in the sudden firings of 20 staff members at the Mississippi Department of Human Services. The public needs a full accounting of such a drastic action, even at an agency with 3,500 other employees.
Hearings being held under the direction of state Sen. Bunky Huggins, R-Greenville, and Rep. Bobby Moody, D-Louisville, should get to the bottom of the matter. They have quizzed DHS executive director Janice Broome Brooks, subpoenaed individual staff members and are reportedly looking over other records as they try to determine what happened.
Were the firings politically motivated as Gov. Musgrove's DHS appointee cleans house? Were the 20 staff members whose salaries averaged nearly $50,000 a year fired for legitimate reasons? Were their jobs eliminated because they served no useful purpose?
The annual salaries of these 20 people totaled more than $980,000 so it could be argued that in one swoop, Brooks has saved her agency nearly a million dollars that is, unless other people are hired to these positions. Under normal circumstances, an agency head might be complimented for such extraordinary cost-cutting measures.
But this matter has been elevated to such a high profile that the truth must be uncovered. If there are political motivations, they should be disclosed. If there are other motivations, they should be disclosed, too.
If the staffing budget at DHS is found to be so fat, perhaps other cuts should also be considered.