I’ve been wanting to comment on the antics of Cabinet for Health and Family Services’ Service Region Coordinator, Grace Akers, for some time. You can find out more about the events here and here from the Herald-Leader. Basically, Jami Hall, a social services worker from Jessamine Count cooperated with an investigation into Cabinet wrongdoing. She believes she was retaliated against and so she filed a whistleblower lawsuit. While on leave, Grace Akers, the highest level administrator for Fayette and some of the surrounding counties, obtained police cooperation to go out and deliver a written reprimand to Jami and allegedly try to obtain some missing case records. She got the police to cooperate by making Jami sound like a violent person.
I have met and worked on a case with Jami Hall. She is a character, but nothing about her bespeaks violence potentiality. I know Cabinet protocol because I used to supervise a protection team. While with the Cabinet I saw some really crappy, unbusiness-like, and downright unprofessional behavior – Grace Akers’ performance in this absolutely takes the cake! She made the police think she needed protection in making a home visit – OH PLEASE! The police routinely assist social services workers on home visit to client homes who are being investigated for abuse and neglect. When risk factors make the situation appear extra dangerous or when the children are being removed, police presence is essential. Grace Akers absolutely abused this relationship by calling on them to help with a personnel matter. I find this unbelievably irresponsible and downright foolish behavior and I hope the police are offended by this misuse of their resources.
Furthermore, Grace Akers had no business taking a work issue into Jami’s home. The procedure would be to offer Jami a chance to sign the written reprimand to preserve her right to appeal the action. If she refuses that option, the reprimand can be entered unchallenged into her personnel record. There was no call to deliver the reprimand in person. This was incredibly unprofessional by Grace Akers.
Worse yet, Grace Akers attempted to coerce an illegal search of Jami Hall’s residence because of the authority of having a police escort. Frankly, I think this was an imbecilic ploy to make it appear that Grace Akers really believed Jami Hall had the records and have a witness to verify the sincerity of her belief. I have no information to bolster this next statement and I base it only on my personal opinion: the behavior of Grace Akers makes me think she was motivated by fear and guilt. If Grace Akers’ knows what became of those records, perhaps took part in their disappearance, this dramatic antic would be designed to misdirect suspicion back onto Jami Hall. In my mind, it makes Grace Akers look desperate.
Now for the reprimand. The Cabinet overlooks sins and poor performance as a routine matter. The only reason they begin issuing written reprimands is when they have already decided to fire someone. As a supervisor myself, I was trained by the personnel cabinet to begin building a paper trail and scrutinize errors I would otherwise have dealt with informally if I wanted to fire someone. ABSOLUTELY NO WORKER can do the job duties placed on them perfectly and I never saw anyone adhere to the convoluted and heavy policies to the letter. Therefore, as a supervisor, I could always find just cause to build a case for firing if I so desired. This undermines the spirit of the merit system. Jami Hall probably did commit some minor violation or omit some policy requirment, but I suspect it was an error overlooked in her co-workers.
Now, the smart thing here would be for the Cabinet and Grace Akers to back off, admit their wrongs (which I never saw out of administration folks at the Cabinet) and quit giving Jami Hall and her co-workers a hard time for bringing problems to light. Rather, I am confident they will continue to hold tight to the traditional line of the Cabinet and deny, blame, deny, blame. In the meantime, the children are the losers. I do not know Jami well enough to say she was a great worker, but I did sense she had true care and compassion for her clients. I agree with Judge Goodwine, Cabinet officials are hypocrits.