Children services chief Erich Dumbeck has broken through the veil of "confidentiality" his department has been crouched behind since the Gravelle ordeal started in 2005 and publicly answered questions about the department's handling of the case.
Though Dumbeck, director of Huron County Department of Job and Family Services (HCDJFS) did not take charge of the department until May 2004, he has been the target of outrage from both the press and the public because the department had at least heard rumors of cages in the Gravelle home as early as 2003, but did not act for two years.
Whether criticism of Dumbeck is fair or not, the buck stops here. The public anger expressed in multiple letters to the editor and public comments at commissioner meetings, as well as criticism from juror Nancy Whitacre and the Gravelle children's guardian Margret Kern is not aimed specifically at Dumbeck, but at "the system" and the social workers involved in the case.
Kern claimed several social workers perjured themselves in an attempt to cover their mistakes and inaction, and that sentiment has been repeated by the Gravelle's defense attorney, who has filed a motion for a new trial based on those allegations.
But Dumbeck has stood tall and taken one for the team. He pledged his complete support and trust for social worker Jo Johnson, the lead investigator in the Gravelle case. However, as long as he shields those workers on the front line without a formal investigation into the perjury charges, Dumbeck will continue to come under fire.
Not privy to all the facts, we would never presume to know whether the rumors of perjury hold any water. However, these rumors and attacks aimed at the department and its social workers will continue until a full investigation has taken place.
Huron County Prosecutor Russell Leffler said during his closing statements that HCDJFS was not on trial. In addition, at the time of the Gravelles' indictment last February, he also said he did not believe anyone else had acted criminally, which was why he did not pursue charges against the social workers. And, in both cases, he might have been right.
But, following the Gravelles' trial and subsequent testimony in both the criminal and juvenile courts, it would behoove everyone involved for Leffler to investigate these claims of perjury. If the social workers behaved inappropriately, residents deserve the truth. And if Leffler comes away with no evidence anyone but the Gravelles acted criminally, it would help the community find some closure and finality. Either way, questions will continue until the public's desire for answers is sated.