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home : opinion : columns April 29, 2016

6/8/2014 6:02:00 AM
Column: A final, worthy tribute for a dedicated public servant

Rich Thurlow

Back when Aibing Guo was a reporter here and big news was happening in Colorado City and Hildale, the Miner sent our Chinese journalist up to the FLDS stronghold to get a sense of the community.

Aibing didn't come back with anything remarkable. As I recall, he had a big problem getting anyone to talk to him. My thinking at the time was that Americans have a natural tendency to help visitors, and that Aibing definitely looked like a visitor. But he had no luck.

My lasting memory of Aibing's personal report regarded his arrival in Colorado City, where he had arranged to meet Sheriff Tom Sheahan. At the time the sheriff was spending a lot of time there.

Sheahan either had Aibing follow him or they both went in the sheriff's vehicle to a high point in the community. Then the sheriff had Aibing step out and stand with him.

Why? So the people in town would know that Aibing was important to the sheriff. The message: Don't mess with Aibing.

I don't know that Aibing was in any kind of danger, but I sure thought that was a class thing for the sheriff to do.

But that's par for the course for Sheahan, who shunned the spotlight but seemed to have all the right moves behind the scenes. The voters got it right when they repeatedly returned Sheahan to office by wide margins.

That's coming to an end on Aug. 1, when Sheahan will wrap up an exceptional law enforcement career dating back to the 1970s. He and wife Jo will be moving to the metro area to be closer to children and grandchildren.

Between now and then I'm sure Sheahan will get his share of official thank yous and stuff to hang on the wall. The Board of Supervisors, meanwhile, can honor the sheriff best by following his advice on who should take his place.

Jim McCabe had been Sheahan's chief deputy for years. The sheriff believes McCabe is the best fit for the job, particularly in regard to a seamless transition. That's important in an agency as large as the Mohave County Sheriff's Office.

Here's hoping the appointment of a new sheriff doesn't become a political football. The supervisors should make McCabe the official replacement as soon as possible.


The second thing I thought of when news that thousands of child abuse and neglect reports had not been investigated was, well, I hope the Legislature doesn't just throw money at the problem.

The Legislature handled the issue late last month by giving the Department of Child Safety an additional $200 million. Arizona will fund the former Child Protective Services with $800 million.

Will that extra money be wisely spent? Heck, will the $800 million be wisely spent?

Consider this: The Department of Child Safety's top objective measure of success is "staff satisfaction and retention," as reported in last Sunday's edition by the Miner's Kim Steele. The naive among us might think the objective measure of success for the Department of Child Safety might focus a bit on, you know, child safety.

You naive people are wrong, wrong, wrong - and if anyone bothers to remember five or 10 or 15 years from now, when DCS is mired in another scandal, they'll think that Mohave County state senator, Kelli Ward, was right.

Ward was the only member of the Legislature to vote no on the revamped Department of Child Safety, a measure that passed after a hurried special session.

And Ward has valid points well beyond the inane objective measure of success. (Supervisor: "You glanced through two case files for potential abuse, took a three-hour lunch and napped until checkout time. What have you got to say for yourself?")

We've all heard horror stories about children who died because a caseworker didn't take action or didn't was so burdened there was no time to see that child. There are states where child protective services have lost track of children in foster care. Didn't Florida have a dozen or so children they simply lost track of a few years ago?

Contrast that with other stories most of us have heard, of parents needlessly separated for months from their children by over-zealous caseworkers/morons. Seriously, you read some of these accounts and wonder how those people ever got a job, much less one that gives them an inordinate amount of direct control of other people's lives.

These were Ward's concerns. The bill lacked accountability, she said, and too often CPS (and now DCS) respond with a "knee-jerk reaction of removing children" when that's not necessary.

Most families need help, not being split apart. Ward was absolutely correct on that issue.

After reading Steele's story about Ward's reasons for her vote, my question wasn't why Ward was the only one to vote against the bill.

I was wondering why Sonny Borrelli and Doris Goodale, our state representatives, voted for it.

Ward may be standing alone now, but sometime in the future she'll look like a prophet.

Related Stories:
• Mohave County's goal: Replace outgoing sheriff by Aug. 1
• Sheriff leaving MCSO on Aug. 1
• Ward defends child welfare overhaul vote

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Reader Comments

Posted: Sunday, June 8, 2014
Article comment by: Greg Bucci

I hope McCabe gets the post. He is far and away the best man for sheriff of Mohave County.

Posted: Sunday, June 8, 2014
Article comment by: Been there

I couldn't agree more on Kelli Ward. Thank you Kelli Ward.

The Child Protective Services in this area are so inept, they couldn't find their rear ends if they had three hands.

Having dealt with them twice over the same case, nothing at all was done either time and when I tried to inquire along the way about what was being done, I was treated rudely, as if it was none of my business in spite of the fact, the person in harms way was in my own family.

In the end, they closed both cases. After checking around at places they should have checked like the hospital and Dr's where the child was brought, I discovered they didn't check there, nor did they check anywhere. They simply closed the case and when I asked about it, I was told nothing and treated like I had no right to even know.

The school, aware of the situation, was also not contacted.

Like most government offices like this, the VA, etc, they abuse their privileges, make sure they get their paychecks but don't get the job done.

Posted: Sunday, June 8, 2014
Article comment by: just a fact

McCabe is a great choice for Interim sheriff. Hope he is elected this fall.

About Child Protective Services. Thank you Kelly Ward. Boo to Doris Goodale and Sonny Borrelli. Doris isn't running again. Good. You don't solve a problem by throwing money at it. You solve the problem by making them (DPS) accountable.

Posted: Sunday, June 8, 2014
Article comment by: Anson's Nephew

"Ward may be standing alone now, but sometime in the future she'll look like a prophet.

You may rest assured THAT will never happen.

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