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Two top officials won't return following investigation of Omaha-area child welfare contractor

Two top officials won't return following investigation of Omaha-area child welfare contractor

LINCOLN — The Kansas-based contractor overseeing Omaha-area child welfare cases has made some personnel changes after wrapping up an investigation into alleged mismanagement within the organization.

In a statement Thursday, St. Francis Ministries said the agency’s top two officials “will not return to the organization.” They are the Rev. Robert Smith, who had been president and CEO of the agency, and Tom Blythe, who had been chief operating officer.

Bill Clark, who had been chief of staff, will continue as interim president and CEO. He was named to that position when the investigation began in late October.

Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services officials said the change will not affect the nonprofit’s work in Nebraska, which includes managing child abuse and neglect cases in Douglas and Sarpy Counties and providing more limited child welfare services in other areas of the state.

“St. Francis continues to be committed to serving Nebraska’s children and families,” said Khalilah LeGrand, an HHS spokeswoman. “These internal changes are not expected to impact operations and service in Nebraska.”

St. Francis has a $197 million, five-year contract with the state to manage the care of abused and neglected children in Douglas and Sarpy Counties. The agency started taking over cases one year ago from an Omaha-based nonprofit that previously had the contract. The transition was completed by Jan. 1.

St. Francis spokeswoman Morgan Rothenberger said previously that the agency’s board authorized the investigation, which was prompted by a whistleblower complaint and carried out by an independent consultant.

She said there had been no allegations of improprieties involving any children or families in care. But she declined to provide other details about the allegations and said the organization does not plan to release the report from the investigation. She said the board has not decided whether to turn over any information to law enforcement.

Rothenberger said that the organization has kept Nebraska officials updated about the leadership change and that St. Francis plans to continue its same work with children and families.

“That work has not been — and will not be — impacted by the leadership change,” she said. “At the heart of our work is the staff, who show up every day to make a difference.”

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Martha Stoddard keeps legislators honest from The World-Herald's Lincoln bureau, where she covers news from the State Capitol. Follow her on Twitter @StoddardOWH. Phone: 402-670-2402

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