additional commentary from Timothy Horrigan; November 20 & 29 & December 2, 2011
On November 15, 2011, House Redress Committee chair Rep. Paul Ingbretson sent the following letter to Maggie Bishop, director of the New Hampshire Division For Children, Youth and Families. The committee members received courtesy copies two or three days later, without an enclosure related to the "the questions surrounding just Petition 14."
November 15, 2011
Maggie Bishop, Director
Dear Director Bishop:
The Redress of Grievances Committee respectfully requests that you or a thoroughly knowledgeable and authoritative representative from your Department meet with us on November 29, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. in Room 303 of the Legislative Office Building.
Following up on our Redress of Grievance duties we wish to discuss questions regarding the policies, protocols and rules of your Department that have arisen from the grievance hearings on Petitions 2 ,6, 8, and 14. We will not be inquiring into the specifics of any petition at this time, but simply wish to discuss the DCYF norms related to some of the situations alleged in these petitions. To give you an idea of what we are looking for l have enclosed a copy of the questions surrounding just Petition 14.
If you have any questions or need further information, please contact me at (603) 989-3092 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are looking forward to meeting with you.
The November 29, 2011 session wasn't noticed as a meeting with the DCYF in the November 21 House Calendar. It was listed as just a regular work session:
REDRESS OF GRIEVANCES, Room 303, LOB
10:00 a.m. Full committee work session on PETITION 2, for redress of grievance on behalf of Elena Katz, Arnold Goodman, and their Daughter, PETITION 6, redress of grievance of Candy Knightly, PETITION 8, redress of grievance of Greg and Sarah Clarkson, PETITION 14, Petition on behalf of Jeanette Dionne.
Work sessions are usually intended precisely to do what Chair Ingbretson says won't be happening on November 29: i.e., they are a time set aside for the committee members to inquire into the specifics behind bills (or in this case, petitions.)
I was baffled by the emphasis on Petition 14, which is the Jeannette Dionne petition. The DCYF was only tangentially involved in that one. Apparntly, Ingbretson mixed up the Dionne petition with the Knightly petition (#6.) Candy Knightly's mother Dot Knightly brought in a list of 73 questions for the DCYF, which a subcommittee whittled down to a few dozen less accusatory (and less Knightly-specific) questions. Here are a few typical questions from the original list:
Under what DCYF policy does it state an Assessment worker will investigate a report of abuse and neglect without evidence of a Toxicology report?
Under what DCYF policy does it state slandering parents and family members is allowed to place a child in foster care?
What DCYF policy grants immunity to DCYF workers who commit perjury?
What DCYF policy gives DCYF the right to tell a parent if they don't agree with a recommendation, the caseworker will have the judge court order it?
(The only reason I am not quoting from the revised list is because I have not been given a copy.)
The November 29 hearing came and went without a visit from Maggie Bishop, or from any other thoroughly knowledgeable and authoritative representative from her Department.
Jeanette Dionne did show up and accused me (or some other state representative) of being a cyber-bully, but that was just a minor ruckus at the end of the meeting. Actually, for whatever reason, she did not single me (or whoever it was) out by name, but I have posted some materials from the public record on my web site and I have expressed some of my opinions about the case. I make no apologies for doing so— even though I am not a person who is afraid to apologize when I do something wrong, and even though I did revise some of my 2011 Petition web pages not long after the hearing.
Be that as it may, we did get the following letter from the Attorney General's Office, basically telling us that no representative from DCYF would ever show up, at least not to discuss any specifics:
Dear Mr. Chairman:
I am responding to your letter requesting that Director Bishop appear before the Committee on Redress of Grievances to provide information regarding the policies, protocols and rules of the Department of Health and Human Services with respect to some of the situations alleged in Petitions 2 ,6, 8, and 14, which are pending before the Committee.
The allegations contained in each of the petitions apparently relate to specific abuse and neglect cases. The facts and circumstances of each abuse and neglect proceeding are unique to those cases. It is evident that the questions for DCYF enclosed with your letter require responses that specifically relate to the facts and circumstances of specific cases. State law prohibits DCYF from disclosing any information contained in any records related to abuse and neglect investigations and court proceedings. See RSA 169-C:25 and 170-G:8-a. Because of the prohibition, neither Director Bishop nor any other employee of the Department may provide answers to the types of questions that will be posed by Committee members. Consequently, a representative of DCYF will not be meeting with the Committee on November 29, 2011 at 10:00 a.m.
Earlier this year, the Committee was provided with an overview of the Child Protection Act process. Please let me know if there are other generally applicable printed materials that I may provide to the Committee.
Petitions filed as of November 21, 2011:
[April 16, 2012] A week ago on April 9, 2012, General Michael Delaney sent a scathing six-page letter regarding the House Redress of Grievances committee to Speaker Bill O'Brien, which reportedly elicited a even more scathing response. The Speaker has not shared his response with his fellow reps, at least not those of the Democratic persuasion.
As of Tax Day, I am still a member of the Redress of Grievances Committee. We had two full days of hearings very shortly after the AG's letter came out. The first day, the chair didn't even mention the controversy. On the second day, someone finally brought the matter up, and our Chair somewhat bizarrely claimed not to have seen the letter, even though he was on the cc: list. A semi-official response (opposing the AG) went out on April 11, in the form of a video which reflected the views of just one faction on the committee.
I (and many others) received the following press release on Monday, April 16 from the people who run the "Stop! Judicial Abuse" blog. I can assure you that not all members of the committee stand in solidarity against Attorney General Delaney. I, for one, support him:
URLs of original stories:
Official Petitions & Redress committee page (not much to see here)
May 10, 2011 House Rules Committee Minutes (with details of future petitions)