Update posted 3:16 p.m.:
The head of the Indiana Department of Child Services has resigned amid allegations of interfering in a case involving relatives and disparaging his own agency.
Governor Mitch Daniels accepted the resignation of DCS Director James Payne on Monday, a day after a report in The Indianapolis Star.
Democrats including gubernatorial candidate John Gregg called on Payne to resign or be fired after the newspaper reported the DCS head had his grandchildren taken away from his daughter-in-law during her divorce. The children were then placed in Payne’s home.
“I respect his view that his family be spared further harsh criticism, and that a difficult personal dispute, not of his own making, could be misused by those with political or special interest agendas to falsely disparage the excellent work he and his DCS co-workers have done over the last eight years,” Daniels said.
The governor defended the work Payne had done with the DCS since his appointment in 2005.
“The leading national authorities are unanimous in praising Indiana's improvements in child protection, often labeled 'worst to first,’ during Jim Payne's tenure. In the most recent measurements year, the number of fatalities among children under DCS oversight fell to four, an all-time low,” the governor said.
Daniels also said attacks on Payne’s record have ranged from innocently ignorant to despicably political and self-interested.
DCS Chief of Staff John Ryan has been picked to serve as director of the department, effective immediately.
Original story posted at 8:05 a.m.:
(Indianapolis, Ind.) - A state legislator and a judge are joining Democratic candidate for governor John Gregg in calling for the resignation of Indiana Department of Children's Services Director James Payne.
State Representative Gail Reicken (D-Evansville) and retired Monroe County juevenile court judge Viola Taliafero want Payne to step aside after an investigation by The Indianapolis Star published Sudnay revealed his role in a case involving his grandchildren and former daughter-in-law.
The report says Payne opposed the agency's decision to reunite the children with their mother, Payne’s daughter-in-law, as she went through a 2010 divorce with Payne’s son. Payne’s grandchildren were temporarily sent to live with him and his wife.
Among the allegations in the news report, Payne drafted a legal brief criticizing the DCS when caseworkers reunited the children with their mother.
Gregg, who has been touting reform for the DCS as part of his campaign in the race against Republican Mike Pence and Libertarian Rupert Boneham, has previously called for Payne to be removed from the agency.
“In February of this year, I wrote a letter to the editor saying that the department needed to be fixed, and that started with removing Judge Payne as Director. In July of this year, I released my plan for fixing DCS by creating the Office of the Child Advocate, re-instituting preventative mental health care and promoting adoption throughout the state. Again, I called for Judge Payne’s removal.”
Gregg called on Governor Mitch Daniels to remove Payne, a former Marion County juvenile court judge, immediately.
Payne defended his actions in an e-mail to The Star, stating that he had no official role in the case and his only involvement was as a “grandfather, father and husband.”
Ethics experts tell the newspaper they were concerned Payne did not tell Governor Mitch Daniels about his involvement in the case.
The governor’s office declined comment to The Star.