Acting director of Division of Juvenile Services reimbursed for living costs
The acting director of the state Division of Juvenile Services is reimbursed costs to travel, live and eat in Charleston.
The division is headquartered in Charleston. The person serving as acting director, Stephanie Bond, lives in Preston County.
Since taking on the role in late February, she's been reimbursed almost $5,500 by the state.
Officials could not immediately confirm whether all of that money was reimbursed to cover the expenses of living in Charleston or for other work-related costs.
"It appears to me that the state does allow public employees in certain circumstances to get help with such work-related expenses, with lodging and meals," said Lawrence Messina, spokesman for the state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety.
Multiple attempts to contact Bond were unsuccessful.
Bond was appointed acting director in late February, a day after the department and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's office decided to fire then-director Dale Humphreys.
The firing came in the midst of an ongoing lawsuit and significant changes within the division.
From 2004 until her appointment in February, Bond worked as superintendent of the Kenneth "Honey" Rubenstein Juvenile Center. The center is located in Davis, a city in Tucker County about 174 miles northeast of Charleston.
As acting director she earns an $80,000 salary. The salary for the director of the division is outlined in state law. Since Bond was appointed she's submitted 25 invoices totaling about $5,425, according to state records.
"Please realize that while she is acting director, she is still a director of the Rubenstein center," Messina said. "You might say she is on assignment."
Dan Dilly is listed as the acting superintendent at the Rubenstein center on the department's website. An employee who answered the phone late Friday said Bond no longer works at the center.
Although Bond might not be involved in the day-to-day operations of the center, she technically remains an employee of the center, Messina said. If and when a permanent director of the division is found, Bond would then return to her leadership role at the Rubenstein center, he explained.
"If named director, then that situation would change because those duties would require her to be at the Capitol," Messina said later in the interview.
In her role as acting director, Bond might need to travel to some of the many different juvenile justice facilities across the state, Messina said. Tomblin spokeswoman Amy Shuler Goodwin agreed.
From 2008 to 2012, Humphreys was reimbursed a little more than $2,000 in expenses. Late Friday Messina and Goodwin did not immediately know how often a full-time director is expected to travel for work.
The governor thinks Bond has done a very good job under trying circumstances. Officially announcing a full-time director has taken a backseat to finding solutions to the division's numerous problems, Goodwin said.
In April of 2012, public interest law firm Mountain State Justice filed a lawsuit alleging widespread issues at the Industrial Home for Youth in Salem. The lawsuit alleged the facility, at the time the only maximum-security facility for juvenile offenders in the state, focused too much on punishment and not enough on rehabilitation.
Days after Bond accepted the role as acting director, the governor announced the state would close the Industrial home so that it could be repurposed as an adult prison. Since that announcement Bond has overseen the ongoing transition at the facility, as well as the lawsuit involving the facility.
The Mountain State law firm also recently called for emergency hearings to discuss conditions at the Harriet B. Jones Treatment Center, a facility housed on the same property as the Industrial home. The law firm argued offenders were not safe at the facility due to a lack of staffing and other issues.
Mercer Circuit Judge Omar Aboulhosn, assigned to preside over the original lawsuit by the state Supreme Court, called for the Jones center to be vacated by the end of September. A few weeks after the hearing, the division announced it is shifting responsibilities at several juvenile centers in order to accommodate the judge's order.
"The governor thinks that Stephanie is doing a great job," Goodwin said.
The governor knew Bond's living situation when she was asked to take over the division, Goodwin said. The state faced a very difficult situation at the division, and it needed to bring in the best person to oversee the transition, Goodwin said.
Other state officials have come under fire when they were reimbursed commuting costs for extended periods of time.
In 2012, then-Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Rocco Fucillo was reimbursed thousands of dollars while living in Fairmont and commuting frequently to DHHR headquarters in Charleston.
Fucillo told WCHS-TV the reimbursements stopped in August of that year after he and Tomblin's office agreed they would "no longer be appropriate," according to Daily Mail archives.
When current U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., was governor, his administration told Fucillo he could not run the DHHR and not work in Charleston full-time. Tomblin's administration eventually allowed such an arrangement when Fucillo was appointed secretary earlier in 2012. Fucillo was appointed after then-Secretary Michael Lewis stepped down for health reasons.
"This administration, because of the unfortunate departure of Secretary Lewis, allowed the flexibility (for) now-Secretary Fucillo to be based in North Central," Goodwin told the Daily Mail at the time, referring to a Clarksburg office near Fucillo's home in Fairmont.
The state hired Karen Bowling, not Fucillo, as full-time secretary. She took over in July.
Goodwin said Friday she saw no similarities between Fucillo's arrangement and Bond's situation.
In January, the Charleston Gazette also reported an assistant director for Workforce West Virginia accumulated $78,000 in expenses while commuting from Fairmont to Charleston for two years.
Claudia George received the money to cover food, hotel and travel expenses. The article also states she received a $62,640 salary.
Other Workforce employees complained to the agency and the Gazette reporter about the arrangement. At the time, an official at Workforce told the newspaper the arrangement cost less than hiring a second assistant director.
Since the story was published, George's invoices and reimbursements have dropped dramatically.