Special to the Chroniclre
The firing of a state agency head was secretly planned in advance.
This was revealed in documents WCSC-TV in Charleston obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.
The documents shared online with the Lexington County Chronicle show how 4 SC Department of Disabilities and Special Needs commissioners planned to fire then-Director Mary Poole.
This is not the 1st time DDSN and some of the care facilities it finances have run into controversy.
The Chronicle was unsuccessfully sued 3 times by Babcock Center officials after DDSN auditors found evidence ot abuse, neglect and even deaths of vulnerable adults in its care.
Courageous Babcock Center employees and board members gave the Chronicle copies of the audit.
Over the next 4 years, they supplied more evidence of abuse and neglect.
The newspaper published this information despite threats of lawsuits and stonewalling its requests for Babcocks’ side of the charges.
In the most recent episode, a memo for a closed-door, executive session said in part:
“The executive director has lashed out and taken revenge on so many individuals & agencies across this state that it’s almost impossible to keep count. This is not the reputation we want and it is certainly not professional or acceptable.”
DDSN finances and oversee services for South Carolinians with severe, lifelong disabilities provided by the Babcock Center and other care givers in Lexington County.
Care giver employees have expressed concerns about covid-19. staff shortages, long hours and low pay.
In a February meeting only accessible to the public through an audio stream, Poole was fired.
She seemed to have no idea she was to be fired in the meeting
In that meeting, commissioners voted 5-1 to fire Poole.
The lone voter in opposition was Commission Chairman Gary Lemel.
The commissioners publicly accused Poole of mishandling an executive-level sexual harassment matter and a sexual discrimination investigation,
DDSN has refused to provide details about the allegations.
The documents refer to concerns DDSN Internal Audit Director Kevin Yacobi raised about Poole including:
• An accusation she tried to influence judges of an award.
• She violated policies on procurement and on creating a new division.
• An actual or perceived conflict of interest.
Poole denied many of Yacobi’s accusations. She said he had an “extreme bias against me.”
The same day, Yacobi was given a written disciplinary action accusing him of “hostile” conversations with Poole and another employee.
Poole will not talk in detail about the sexual harassment allegations.
WCSC investigators said she told them in an email shared by her lawyer that she “handled the matter appropriately” and did not expect to be fired.
She said the commissioners met secretly by email to avoid the Freedom of Information Act.
DDSN spokesperson Kimberly McLeod told WCSC the firing was not news and reporting on it would only distract the staff.
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