Chairwoman, son deny harassment; say they want to correct errors and fight defamation
MAY 11, 2012 8:40 a.m. (50)
Maureen Kriese and former board secretary Judith Gibson resigned on May 2; Maggi Bailey filed her resignation on May 3.
Roxie and Todd Kincannon visited the Journal’s offices on Wednesday for a two-hour session to discuss the resignation letters, allegations of harassment and the state of the agency since the firing of former executive director Brent Parker and hiring of Patrick Haddon as interim director.
The two also discussed dozens of Freedom of Information requests Todd Kincannon said he filed with county DSN boards around the state in the name of state Rep. Eric Bikas, demanding years of information concerning Chris Clark, author of a critical audit and management letter directed at the Greenville DSN board. Additionally, Kincannon filed FOIs for information on former GCDSN director Brent Parker, former board member Kriese and others.
Kincannon said he filed the requests to give Clark and others a taste of “what it feels like” to come under pressure over actions taken during the past couple of years and to correct errors he said were contained in Clark’s October 2011 management letter. He also said he anticipates filing legal actions for his clients: Roxie Kincannon, former board Chairwoman Connie Holmes and board member Vena Lease.
The resignation letters of Gibson and Bailey were provided to the Journal by county officials.
In her resignation letter to Gov. Nikki Haley, Bailey wrote:
“Recently, members of the Board have taken actions that may violate South Carolina’s Freedom of Information Act and have created substantial conflict within the Board itself and between the Organization and its clients. As a result, I and other members of the Board who have objected to these activities have been subjected to intimidation and have not been provided with the information necessary to responsibly carry out our duties.
“Due to this conflict, intimidation, and lack of openness by the Board’s leadership and the organization’s management and the conflict with the parents and family members of those consumers served by GCDSNB, I do not believe that the consumers are being afforded the advocacy and protections they deserve.”
In addition to her resignation letter to Gov. Haley, Gibson wrote a letter dated May 2 to Beverly Buscemi, director of the state Department of Disabilities and Special Needs, saying:
“In my opinion there is little need for me to continue on this board because any and all decisions and actions are made by Roxie Kincannon and her friends and family. She brought in her good friend to be Chair of the Nursing Practices & Policies Committee, a committee recently created by Roxie herself acting alone. Then Roxie attempted to get the board’s approval to hire this friend at an exorbitant salary as Assistant Executive Director, a position which does not exist. Roxie unilaterally provided the board with an Interim Executive Director, Patrick Haddon, who she has attempted to have hired on a permanent basis without a proper job search. These actions were taken by providing a surprised board with scripts to follow (copies enclosed) in lieu of the proposed agenda.”
Gibson continued, “But by far the most disturbing thing to me is the involvement of Roxie Kincannon’s son Todd, a lawyer, who is now attending most if not all committee and board meetings. His influence can readily be seen in the flurry of ‘Chairman’s Rulings’ issued between February 20 and February 29, 2012, which she has asked be attached to the board minutes. I find Todd’s behavior threatening to members of the board and to the families in the audience. It is my understanding he has caused one board member to be subjected to harassing orders to provide years of emails and also records pertaining to her employment. This employment has nothing to do with GCDSNB. He has frightened clients’ family members with veiled threats of legal action and demands for personal emails.”
A spokeswoman for Buscemi said the state DDSN had received Gibson’s letter and attachments on Tuesday but had no further comment.
Gov. Nikki Haley has not commented directly to the Journal on the DSN controversy. However, at a question and answer session at a Greenville Rotary luncheon Wednesday, she said, “It sounds like you have a problem up here in the Upstate with some disabilities issues, (and) we are working closely with (County Council) on that to see what needs to be done to correct that problem.”
Todd Kincannon told the Journal he filed FOI requests for board member Maureen Kriese’s entire email account with Spartanburg School District 5 “because she uses the District 5 account to conduct board business.”
He said, “I’ll tell you one thing, there are no veiled threats of legal action. The threats of legal action are very explicit and they are going to continue as long as people are defaming innocent folks … I did not bully anyone. Have I threatened people with lawsuits? Absolutely. I have threatened people who have defamed my family and my clients with lawsuits. There is nothing wrong with threatening actionable defamation with a defamation lawsuit. That’s what lawyers are for.”
Roxie Kincannon told the Journal she acted quickly to hire Haddon because the DSN agency was in dire straits after firing former director Parker and could not afford to wait to get a new director in place. She said she had known Haddon for years and knew he had considerable financial experience. “I know him and he has the skills and talents that we need to help turn things around,” she said.
The scripts mentioned by Gibson in her letter to Buscemi were suggested by Todd Kincannon to his mother in an attempt to help her bring unruly meetings into a semblance of order, he said.
“No one was required to follow the scripts,” Roxie Kincannon said. “And they were not distributed until just before each meeting.”
Todd Kincannon told the Journal the FOI requests filed in regard to auditor Chris Clark were both in preparation for a May 15 County Council meeting scheduled with the DSN and to correct errors in Clark’s October management letter.
He said Clark criticized the DSN board for actions Clark had himself urged the board to take 18 months earlier in a “general practices” seminar. In an April 29 email to Clark, Kincannon wrote: “Withdraw your management letter to the GCDSNB that has created these problems. Send a letter to the GCDSNB explaining that potential problems with the factual basis of the letter have been brought to your attention, that you wish to investigate them and correct them if need be, and that you will re-issue a management letter after fully investigating the matters.”
Within days of receipt of that email, Clark withdrew his management letter and issued a new one and Kincannon dropped his FOI requests.
In his new management letter, Clark acknowledged that the board was acting on his advice, given 18 months earlier during a training session, when they voted to increase then executive director Parker’s authority to execute contracts without board approval from $15,000 to $75,000.
Kincannon said he sought Rep. Bikas’ help with the FOI requests because the issues involved Bikas’ constituency. Bikas, who has not attended a legislative session since early January, told the Journal last week he became involved because he wanted to help his friend Todd get to the bottom of the issues surrounding the DSN board. He was not aware of what the issues actually are.
Contacted by the Journal, South Carolina House Speaker Bobby Harrell said Wednesday, “It is totally inappropriate for Rep. Bikas to allow anyone to use his name to make FOIA requests unless he has an intention to use the information to perform his duties as a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives. Since he has not attended a legislative session since January, it is highly unlikely that he plans to use any information that has been or will be gathered in his name.”
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