PHOENIX — Gov. Jan Brewer is willing to give Department of Economic Security Director Clarence Carter the benefit of the doubt about his culpability in more than 6,500 complaints of child abuse going uninvestigated — at least for the time being.
The governor said Monday she is expecting an investigation by the Department of Public Safety to find out “in a short time’’ who decided it was OK to mark certain complaints filed with Child Protective Services, which DES oversees, as “NI,’’ as in not for investigation without any follow-up. DPS Director Robert Halliday said that inquiry probably will be done sometime next month.
Potentially the most significant is that Halliday said while the inquiry is administrative, his agency also will consider if any laws were broken. That includes the one that requires every complaint to CPS about child abuse or neglect to be investigated.
“At this stage of the investigation we’re still trying to go through data, emails, a lot of different things that are going to allow us to really look at this thing under a microscope,’’ he said. And Halliday said he will use subpoena powers, if necessary, to get what he needs.
Halliday said it is “inappropriate’’ for him to comment on what he has found so far.
He separately told members a special legislative oversight panel that he will not publicly release what his investigators find. Instead he said the report will go to Carter, who could be one of the targets of the inquiry.
But gubernatorial press aide Andrew Wilder said the report will be made public — eventually.
“There has to be adequate time, appropriate time, to review and analyze the report,’’ he said.
Brewer said she’ll wait to see whether the blame for marking thousands of cases as not for investigation over four years is someone within CPS, higher up the pecking order at the DES, or Carter.
“We will get to the bottom of it, and we will hold those who are responsible responsible at the right time,’’ she said. “I don’t think anyone in the public would want us to go in there and start rolling heads, if you will, because we thought maybe that might be the person.’’
But the governor was less clear about whether she thinks Carter should be responsible for knowing what was going on within CPS.
“We always say that, at the top of the pile, if you will, the buck stops there,’’ Brewer said. But she said it’s not that simple. “As we all know, when you run huge agencies or you run government, sometimes you have staff that you depend upon. And sometimes they let you down, and they don’t give you that information.’’
There may be another factor at work that affects whether Carter remains at the helm.
Several lawmakers from both parties have called for his ouster. And that raises the question of whether the Legislature will approve more money for CPS with the current DES leadership.
Carter has submitted a request for an extra 444 new staffers, including 394 caseworkers on top of the current 1,211, to deal with the increasing caseload. That request, with a $115 million price tag, comes on top of an additional 200 staffers lawmakers added earlier this year.
Brewer has not yet commented on how much, if any, of Carter’s request she will include in her budget.