Probation office, inspector general again question oversight


    (MGN)

    LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Oversight questions have again returned to the center of a debate between Nebraska Probation Administration officials and the inspector general's child welfare office.

    Nebraska Ombudsman Marshall Lux contacted state senators last month over concerns that that the Probation Administration won't allow Child Welfare Inspector General Julie Rogers to investigate juvenile justice cases as she sees fit, the Lincoln Journal Star reported . He said that Rogers' investigations of death and serious injuries are about protecting vulnerable children and preventing future tragedies.

    There are areas where legislative oversight of the Probation Administration can be appropriate, since the agency supervises hundreds of children under the state's authority and is responsible for spending millions of taxpayer dollars, Lux said.

    "We can't have children dying and being sexually abused, among all the other terrible things that could happen, and not be trying to learn from it," Lux said. "We can't undo what's happened, but we can try to learn from it and make the system better."

    But the Probation Administration has offered limited cooperation with Rogers, according to Lux.

    Probation Administration officials have directed staff not to respond to any communication from Rogers, and even cancelled meetings that Rogers had arranged related to an investigation.

    Such barriers will seriously inhibit Rogers' ability to conduct meaningful investigations into child deaths and injuries, Lux said.

    State Court Administrator Corey Steel said that the inspector general's attempts to investigate and question judge's orders, or lack thereof, raises "grave constitutional concerns."

    He recently said that the Probation Administration office will respond to communication requests by Rogers.

    Lux said that if the on-again, off-again cooperation with the inspector general continues, then he recommends repealing the law that gives the inspector general oversight of Probation Administration. Lux anticipates another bill to propose moving juvenile justice services back to the Department of Health and Human Services, which has a long record of cooperating with the inspector general.

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    Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

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