PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) - The Arkansas Department of Human Services released more information to Region 8 News after they released documents following a Freedom of Information request. Documents showed the former supervisor for the county's Division of Children and Family Services was fired for violating a policy about integrity and honesty.
According to documents provided to Region 8 News after a Freedom of Information request, Terri Blanchard, who had served as the director of the Greene County branch for more than a year, held a "team building day" at her house on Tuesday, June 7.
Many employees were asked to bring food and other items, including their "OWN WATERGUN," according to an email provided to Region 8 News.
Ten days after the "team building day," the state conducted a pre-disciplinary staffing hearing with Terri Blanchard. The investigation stemmed from alleged violations of the DHS Minimum Conduct Standard regarding diligent and competent performance and professionalism.
Among the allegations against Blanchard and her office were that the staff played games and swam in Blanchard's pool and dressed in yoga pants while at work.
Brandi Hinkle, deputy chief of communications for ADHS, said the employees personally paid for the party and no state funds went to the exercise.
However, Blanchard was terminated from her position for violating DHS 1084.3.1 (Integrity and Honesty). Hinkle said Blanchard cannot appeal the decision.
During a series of text messages on the app GROUPME, an employee asked if it was okay to "tell off" someone in the training class. Blanchard responded, "Can you do it in private and say it never happened?"
Blanchard also stated, "Don't put anything in text, email, or written form that can be traced back to you."
"Terri Blanchard was unprofessional, unethical and lacked integrity by first not addressing the negative communication and secondly by taking part in the negative conversation," the state summarized in their hearing. "She actually encouraged the bad behavior by telling the staff to do something unethical in private and say it never happened."
During the investigation, Blanchard told DHS Area Director Cassandra Scott that she wanted to have a team building day because her staff did not work together as a team. Blanchard said some of the older employees were not working as a team with the younger employees.
However, the state said Blanchard had no set agenda, sign-in sheet, experienced trainer and the exercises could not be measured to see "if actual areas of team building were addressed."
The state also grew concerned about the confidentiality of foster children and the placement of some children.
An investigation has been launched by the state to determine "if there has been a breach of confidentiality" in a series of text messages.
An examination of the GROUPME conversations between the staff of the Greene County office revealed an ex-employee was still part of the conversation. The former employee "received confidential information because she was never removed from the group after departing DCFS."
The names of foster children, Social Security information, and Medicaid numbers were all included in the conversations.
The state also questioned the security of using the app for such confidential materials.
Another text message shows that staff members were unprofessional when discussing their clients.
When discussing one client's arrest, someone posted "well at least she got her hair colored".
Another conversation took place about a 2-year old foster child who acts out sexually.
"Well at least she's touching herself and not anyone else," a staff member posted.
Hinkle told Region 8 News she is unaware if the "team building exercise" impacted any court cases on the day of the event.
Kandi Tarpley has been named Acting County Supervisor for Greene County while the state seeks to fill the position permanently.
Hinkle also said the state is working with Arkansas State University to better train employees in "professionalism".
There are 91 foster children in Greene County and only 41 foster homes. There are a total of 19 employees in the Greene County Division of Children and Family Services.
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