PHOENIX — Gov. Jan Brewer on Friday rejected calls by some Democrats for a special legislative session to give more cash to the beleaguered Child Protective Services.
Press aide Andrew Wilder said Brewer has given her approval to use any and all necessary overtime to clear out the backlog of the 6,000 reports of abuse over the last four years that were ignored. He said the agency has the resources it needs, at least for the time being.
Wilder said it may ultimately prove that CPS needs more staff to meet the legal requirement that every complaint of child abuse be investigated. In fact, Clarence Carter, director of the state Department of Economic Security, already has asked for an extra 350 employees.
“It's premature to call for a special session when there isn't a plan,” he said. Wilder said Brewer also wants to wait until the Department of Public Safety completes its investigation of what went wrong at CPS.
“You need to know what the problem was, how it happened, who did it,” he said.
Wilder also said Brewer has no intention of honoring calls by some, including Children's Action Alliance, to fire Carter. He said any such decision would not be made until that DPS inquiry is complete.
Carter disclosed the practice of marking some complaints not for investigation on Thursday. But Carter has so far rebuffed questions of how the practice started and who authorized it, suggesting these were decisions made at some lower level.
In a letter to the governor, Dana Wolfe Naimark, president of the Children's Action Alliance, pointed out that the practice continued over several years, and in different units of the agency.
“It's clear it was not one or two rogue employees, but a systemic policy,” Naimark wrote. “Director Clarence Carter is responsible for this lapse and we urge you to ask for his resignation.”
Wilder said that's not going to happen, at least not now.
“She is going to let DPS conduct its independent review before she or other people should be drawing conclusions,” he said.
As to funding, Wilder acknowledged Carter's request for 350 new staff. That is on top of 200 approved by lawmakers earlier this year, including caseworkers.
But he said Brewer considers that unrelated to this week's revelations, and any new employees would be simply to do the daily work of the agency and not to deal with the newly discovered backlog.
“He believes this can get done now,” Wilder said of what Carter is doing about those 6,000 cases. Wilder said Brewer does not believe CPS needs an immediate infusion of new cash — and new employees — to do that.
“It's going to require a lot of staffing resources,” he said.
“The state will make sure the resources are there for overtime,” Wilder said. “It will be done. Every case is going to be investigated.”
He also said that Brewer wants to look closer at Carter's budget request for next year — including those 350 workers — before making any decision.
The question of what to do now has taken on decidedly political overtones. Republican Rep. Kate Brophy McGee of Phoenix said she doubts there is a need for a special session to immediately appropriate more dollars.
“There are contingency monies in CPS' budget,” she said. Brophy also said she wants to see what plan of action the governor proposes.
But Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Fred DuVal said Brewer should “immediately call a special session” to act on Carter's budget request for the coming year.