Early this summer I wrote in a blog post (“Where’s the Follow Up?” 6/17/15) about the arrival of the new DDS deputy director in charge of the Developmental Disabilities Administration, Holly Morrison. I had been told there would be a press release announcing her arrival, but I never saw one. And when she left in August, it was treated like a state secret.
I had met with the director and her new deputy on July 31 about my son’s transition to a new provider agency (“Sometimes It’s Personal,” 8/4/15), as well as some of the policy-level issues I had raised in the June post I cited above. It was a pleasure to see that there was going to be someone on the job who could take some of the burden off the DDS director and give DDA management the attention it deserves. Following that meeting, Ms. Morrison jumped on a couple of important matters, about which she last communicated with me on August 17. I emailed her back on August 18 and again on August 19, and when I got no response and saw others in DDS were taking her off the addressee list I began to wonder. On August 26 I reached out and asked someone I thought might know whether she was on vacation or was already gone. Sure enough, I learned she had left the week before.
So Holly Morrison came, and left. Fast. Her predecessor, Cathy Anderson, lasted much longer but also disappeared very quickly. These quick departures are a matter of concern. Too much is riding on the DDS director herself. She needs a reliable deputy to oversee the DDA side of the operation so that she can look to the bigger stuff. I don’t know why two deputies have moved on so quickly, and it may be a little embarrassing that Holly Morrison left after only two months, but that’s no reason to keep it secret.
There I was, sending emails to her, and no one in DDS bothered to mention she was gone. The director and others included on my emails to Ms. Morrison were simply silent about her departure for days on end. When I learned she had left and raised this silence with the director, Ms. Nuss told me she does not “post such things on the website nor send personnel announcements to families.” There was no out-of-office message from Holly Morrison’s mailbox. Is an out-of-office message a “public announcement?” How long was I, and anyone else trying to reach her, supposed to wait before being told she was gone? We were notified before our son’s service coordinator left recently, but the deputy director was gone for days and there was no communication. This isn’t a matter of “personnel announcements to families,” but rather a matter of DC government transparency – or lack of it.
And, in fact, I do believe that the comings and goings of someone as senior as the deputy director of an agency deserve a public announcement – on the website, in a press release and any other way DDS can get the news out. Why wouldn’t DDS do that?