Friday, February 03, 2017
The Steve Barron Witch Hunt
Last night, Northampton County Council had a very light agenda and a 20-minute meeting. Last night was a perfect opportunity for Council to have asked Children, Youth and Families (CYF) Director Kevin Dolan or Human Services Director Allison Frantz to reassure the public about the services they provide. Two weeks ago, Council looked like a a deer caught in the headlights when NBC-10 reporter Deanna Durante sought answers. They were clueless, and so was Executive John Brown when she asked him in a hallway why he had ignored her calls for three weeks. Having been publicly embarrassed, Council took no time to evaluate how to do better as representatives of the people. Instead, they chose to take the low road. They lashed out at Controller Steve Barron and attempted to make him the scapegoat for their own inadequacies. .
Let's review. In July of last year, 15 year-old Grace Packer was raped, murdered and dismembered Her adoptive mother, Sara Packer, has been charged. She was not only a NorCo employee, but worked in Children, Youth and Families (CYF) between 2003 and 2007. She was actually the adoption supervisor at the time of her termination in 2007. She fostered over 30 children, including a child from NorCo.
Before there was an arrest, Durante discovered that Packer may very well have been a county employee. But wherever she called, she was stonewalled or actively misled. She would either receive no answers at all or would be told that Packer is not a current employee.
In addition to calling numerous administrators, she also called all members of Council Ken Kraft said he would be unable to get that information if he tried himself, and suggested that she seek help from the Controller, Steve Barron.
Barron, who started his career in human services at group homes, immediately provided the correct information to Durante. He was deeply concerned whether Packer may have abused any children in her care while she was employed at Northampton County. He was especially concerned when he learned that she had been terminated, and that this termination appeared to be related to sexual abuse of children occurring within her home. Barron approached county officials and warned them this would eventually become a major issue. He warned them they needed to get out in front of the matter to reassure the public and defend the staff within CYF.
He was ignored.
In addition to speaking to Durante, Barron also provided the same information to WFMZ-TV69. A news camera closed in on computer records showing what appears to be a social security number for Sara packer, although it is not identified as such. The shot lasted under a second, and Barron may have unintentionally disclosed Packer's security number.
County Administrator Cathy Allen latched onto this piece of information. Rather than notifying WFMZ-TV69, she tucked it away and shared it with Brown.
When County Council and Brown were properly taken to task for circling the wagons about Packer, Brown petulantly replied that Barron has disclosed Packer's social security number. The next day, the Controller's access to computer data was shut off, making it impossible for his auditors to do their jobs. Barron has since met with county officials, who are supposed to restore Barron's access soon. But County Council, who should be embarrassed over their own failures, tried their best last night to tar and feather Barron.
Hayden Phillips started the ball rolling by seeking an opinion from the Council solicitor. Phil Lauer correctly advised that there are criminal sanctions for intentionally disclosing a social security number. He added that Packer may have a civil cause of action if she has been harmed by the accidental disclosure, but not Council.Phillips wanted Lauer to forward his opinion to the District Attorney, but Lauer responded that if there is any crime, it would be a federal crime.
There is no evidence that Barron acted intentionally or that Packer has been harmed in any way. But there is evidence that Allen and Brown acted intentionally. They were aware of the disclosure and made no effort to contact WFMZ-TV69 and ask that the number be blurred. That's the first thing Barron did when he became aware that the had accidentally provided a social security number, even though it is never identified as such.
This failure on their part was very intentional. They had no interest in protecting the privacy of county employees. They wanted to get Barron for refusing to circle the wagons like they did.
Once Lauer gave his opinion, Peg Ferraro attempted to change the subject. Ken Kraft attempted to defend Barron, but Hayden Phillips was unwilling to "bury my head in the sand." He was completely willing to do just that when it came to Packer and the CYF workforce. .
Bob Werner threw Barron under the bus, essentially accusing him of being unethical because the poor bastard was worried that we had employed an adoption supervisor who now stands accused of killing and then dismembering her adopted daughter.
Benol, who like Werner and Phillips, had clammed up two weeks ago when confronted by Durante, called Barron's disclosure "a political stunt." If anything was a political stunt, it was their own pathetic attempt to shift attention from their stonewalling, which continues to this day. If any crime was committed, the investigation should start with John Brown and Cathy Allen, who were aware of the disclosure and took no action until it suited them.