The Generation Project






Roob’s business approach to FSSA reform unsettles some


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 be awarded.

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 residents efficiently.