Fred Lord, Director of Williams County Job and Family Services, and JFS administrator Anna Meyers acknowledge they had been advised not to comment on accusations by Sheriff Steve Towns of malfeasance by JFS, or on misdemeanors charges against Towns filed Thursday (See related article, this page).
But in an interview with The Bryan Times on Friday, Lord and Meyers said they felt it was important to issue a public response to Towns’ accusations.
Lord said he had no comment on Towns personally, or the Ohio Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation probe, but wanted to publicly defend JFS’s reputation. He emphasized that in the incidents in question, his office followed proper procedures “to the letter.”
“I don’t feel that needs to be rehashed. That’s already been discussed and has played out publicly. My only stake in this is that we want to protect our reputation. We did our job, we always do our job. We did our job then, and we’re doing our job today,” said Lord.
Meyers noted that in the incidents in question, the county JFS has been investigated by both the BCI and the state JFS and no charges have been filed and no wrongdoing found. “If there was anything there, we would have probably been the first to know,” she said.
Lord agreed. “It’s been reviewed ... and if there was anything there, something would have happened by now.” He said his office reviews its policies and procedures daily and is committed to “do whatever we can to improve and get better every day.”
Lord and Meyers said while they feel they have a good relationship with all county law enforcement, Towns has not visited their office in at least 18 months.
Lord said he and Towns, with mediation by County Prosecutor Katie Zartman, met in a series of meetings about 18 months ago in an effort to improve the lines of communication and work out any issues between JFS and Towns.
However, “Once those meetings were done, we have not had any contact with the sheriff since,” said Lord.
Said Meyers: “I think we have a good rapport with law enforcement. The (sheriff’s) deputies come in and if they have a concern about (a case), or why we didn’t get involved, they come in and we discuss it with them. The sheriff knows we have an open door, but he has not been here to ask any questions, has not communicated with us. But he knows that door is open.”
“Unfortunately what we do at times is frustrating probably because so much of it is confidential. We do what we can to be transparent,” Lord said, noting that JFS has worked with the county commissioners, local law enforcement and local media including The Bryan Times to be as transparent as possible. He also noted that he joined JFS in April 2016, after several of the incidents in question occurred.
“It’s frustrating that others can speak out, but we can’t speak to our side. We can’t always give people the outcomes they want. We have (confidentiality) rules we have to follow. There’s a reason why those laws are in place and that’s to protect children and families,” Lord said.
Towns said he feel it’s part of his duty to try to shine a light on what he perceives as wrongdoing. “If I do nothing and say nothing, I’m not doing my job of protecting the public,” Towns said.
Of Williams County JFS he said, “The inaction of that agency has put children and families at risk, and I have the documents to prove that,” Towns said, noting that some of those documents were among the ones that were posted online or available through a public records request and which led to the charges.
He also said he probably will have more to say next week and is working with his attorney on a press release or prepared statement that will further his case.
“I’m going to expose evidence that’s clear and convincing,” Towns said.
Reached Friday, Bryan City Schools Superintendent Diana Savage said BCS had “no comment at this time.”