ANNAPOLIS- The Connecticut official hired to keep an eye on two Maryland juvenile detention centers has resigned from the post before even starting the job. State officials say the surprise vacancy will delay reforms ordered by the federal government.
Connecticut Juvenile Justice Director Donald W. DeVore unexpectedly withdrew from the part-time job after Connecticut’s governor reportedly sent a letter reminding him that his first responsibilities were to children in his own state and that he could not use Connecticut’s resources for Maryland work.
“I didn’t want there to be a public perception that the job was a distraction from my own work here,” DeVore said. “I was really looking forward to doing the work.”
In September, Maryland hired DeVore to evaluate progress at the Cheltenham Youth Facility and the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School over the next three years. DeVore resigned from the job Monday, pushing back Maryland’s planned reforms for the struggling facilities.
“We’re back to the drawing board,” said Edward Hopkins, spokesman for Maryland Department of Juvenile Services. “Losing him at this stage really does set our program back.”
A state panel selected DeVore out of 40 candidates for the position, which pays $38,000 a year for three years. The juvenile services department has not yet received his formal resignation, Hopkins said.
DeVore was hired as part of an agreement between the state and U.S. Department of Justice that requires an independent monitor to report on progress at the two juvenile facilities, which were both found in violation of residents’ civil rights by a federal investigation last year. Hickey’s residential program is expected to close by the end of this month.
The Hartford Courant reported that some Connecticut children’s advocates disapproved of DeVore’s decision to take the Maryland job in addition to his own position. DeVore said he had planned to perform the part-time job during his own vacation time, and that the project was similar to his current work in Connecticut, where a large juvenile center will close by 2008 due to substandard care.
Four other monitors will continue to review programs at Maryland’s facilities until state and federal officials choose another candidate to direct the project, said Kevin J. Enright, spokesman for the attorney general.
“Mr. DeVore’s decision is unfortunate, but it will not affect the state’s agreement with the Department of Justice,” Enright said.
Delegate Robert A. Zirkin, D-Baltimore County, who chairs the juvenile law subcommittee, said he is skeptical that a part-time monitor will be able to provide any real oversight.
“It’s almost offensive that the legislature’s answer to these problems is to hire someone part time from another state,” Zirkin said. “How could they think that was suitable oversight for a department that’s in a complete free-fall?”
In January Zirkin plans to introduce legislation to restore the Office of the Independent Monitor to oversee facilities for juvenile offenders. Last year Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. weakened the office by eliminating the agency to which it belonged and later vetoed a bill that would have placed it under the state attorney general. “We need to hire a full-time and qualified person with absolute oversight,” he said.