By Ken Kusmer
Associated Press Writer
May 13, 2006
INDIANAPOLIS – The dizzying pace of
change at Indiana’s
human services agency encourages those who find it long overdue but has
unsettled others who fear the state is upending the way it delivers
services to needy, disabled, young and aged Hoosiers.
“Sometimes we move quickly
and everybody’s comfortable with it, and sometimes we move quickly and
there are those who aren’t comfortable with it,” said Family and Social
Services Administration Secretary Mitch Roob.
As the architect of change, Roob has been caught in the crossfire more than once
since taking the helm of the state’s largest agency 16 months ago.
When news broke recently that
the agency’s chief financial officer had resigned, only to be hired as a
private contractor to do the same job at nearly twice the salary,
newspapers skewered the administration in editorials, while Democrats
called for criminal and ethical investigations.
On Tuesday, Roob agreed to return CFO Richard Rhoad
of Fort Wayne
to his state job paying $100,000 annually and cancel the contract that
paid Rhoad $180,000 per year – a deal Roob devised after the State Budget Agency balked at
paying Rhoad the travel and lodging expenses
the FSSA chief had promised.
Controversy likely will flare
again around FSSA once it picks the winner of the largest contract in
state history. Two teams of vendors – each vulnerable to criticism – are vying
for a deal estimated at $1 billion over 10 years to take over
applications for Medicaid, food stamps, welfare and other benefits
received by one in six Indiana residents. Critics went to work months ago
gathering information on the out-of-state companies leading each team.
FSSA changed the timeline for
awarding the contract after The Associated Press reported the agency
would not hold a public hearing until after the contract was awarded. The
agency now plans a hearing June 30, five days before the deal is due to
The flaps illustrate that
politically charged atmosphere Roob and other
Daniels lieutenants face in trying to reshape a state run by Democrats
for 16 years.
“Republicans and Democrats
alike have been critical of the way FSSA is organized and run, and we’re
trying to make relatively quick changes to the agency,” Roob said. “We’re going to move at a pace that we
think is aggressive but not destructive.”
FSSA has been a frequent
target of criticism since the General Assembly created it in 1991, during
the administration of then-Gov. Evan Bayh. The
agency, which manages about $6 billion in state and federal funds each year,
has been racked by fraud and child abuse scandals in recent years,
fueling contentions that it is too big to tend to the state’s neediest