Following several tumultuous years, Erich Dumbeck resigned Tuesday as director of the county department of job and family services after just three years at the helm, effective June 1.
"I just felt it was time for a change, time to do something different," Dumbeck said in an exclusive interview with the Reflector, which first reported his resignation Tuesday on this Web site.
Dumbeck admitted that the controversy and criticism directed at the agency, as well as at him personally, was a factor in his decision to resign.
Dumbeck, 31, has been with the Huron County Department of Job and Family Services (HCDJFS) for 9 1/2 years. He was hired as director in June 2004, just months before the first of the agency's several high-profile cases broke.
In October 2004, Paul Efaw stabbed and killed his foster daughter, Connre Dixon, after she attacked him with a knife. Last month, a jury awarded Dixon's estate $600,000 in a wrongful death lawsuit against the county for failing to properly screen Efaw.
Less than a year later, Michael and Sharen Gravelle were accused of forcing some of their 11 adopted children to sleep in cages. Several social workers and agency employees have been criticized for knowing about the conditions in the home and failing to act.
Dumbeck was heavily criticized for initially indicating the department had no interaction with the Gravelles, which was incorrect.
Last year, a sexual harassment complaint was filed against Dumbeck. The complaint was dismissed earlier this year. An independent review found that he did have an unwanted, inappropriate relationship with a HCDJFS employee, but it was prior to his promotion to director.
Finally, an old human services computer containing employee information was sold online last year through a government auction.
"You can look at a couple of unpleasant things (but) the good that the agency does far outweighs and surpasses a couple of bad situations," Dumbeck said.
Dumbeck said he felt no pressure to resign by the county commissioners, and all three commissioners said they did not ask him to resign. However, the commissioners and Dumbeck did talk about the direction of the agency and what was "best for him and his family."
Dumbeck was in line to receive an evaluation from the commissioners in the near future.
"No, I wouldn't say there was any direct pressure," said commissioner Mike Adelman.
"There's going to be some people who speculate about why he (resigned) and the woulda, shoulda, coulda until the cows come home. Let's just take his letter of resignation at face value."
In that letter, Dumbeck wrote that God was "leading me in the direction to serve individuals in a different capacity."
Commissioner Gary Bauer said he supported Dumbeck and his decision.
"He had to be under tremendous pressure. I wouldn't say I thought he'd resign, but I'm not surprised by that," Bauer said. "He's not a quitter. He has to make decisions that are best for his family."
Commissioner Ralph Fegley said an agency review, launched in February, would continue.
"I'm disappointed, but he's also got to look out for himself and what he has to do," Fegley said, adding he thought the sexual harassment complaint likely weighed heavily on Dumbeck. "There was a cloud hanging over him that probably would not go away. Some major things did happen ... He takes responsibility for his actions and considers how he can do better. "
The commissioners will discuss how to proceed in hiring a new director.
They also have other fish to fry at HCDJFS:
"The board is very aware of an element, a very small element, at job and family services that seemingly takes great pleasure at causing problems, not only for the administration but for other people who work out there as well," Adelman said. "We will get to the bottom of that."
He declined to elaborate further on the situation at this time.
Dumbeck was not bitter about his time at HCDJFS, instead he spoke highly of what the agency was able to accomplish during his tenure.
"I think that this agency continues to grow and improve every day. I think the money and effort this agency puts out there meets the needs of those that are hurting or don't have resources," he said. "I'm proud to work for and work with these customers and these employees who are truly dedicated to what they do."
April 10, 2007
Huron County Commissioners
180 Milan Ave.
Norwalk, Ohio 44857
RE: Resignation as Director of the Department of Job and Family Services
Dear Huron County Commissioners,
This letter is to inform you of my decision to resign as the Director of the Huron County Department of Job and Family Services effective June 1, 2007.
I appreciate the opportunity afforded to me to serve the community of Huron County. I have enjoyed working for and being a part of HCDJFS for the last nine years. I am proud to have worked with professionals throughout the community and in this agency that truly have the desire to serve the people of Huron County.
I believe that God leads in directions that are sometimes unknown to us but are part of a greater plan. I feel that He is leading me in the direction to serve individuals in a different capacity.