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5/10/2011 - Deputy Freeholder Director Responds To Letter

Deputy Freeholder Director Responds To Letter

To The Editor: Reverend James A. Dunkins May 5, 2011

I am responding to the letter to the editor written by Mr. Dean Hawk published in the May 5th edition of your paper. I would like offer some clarity for the residents of Cumberland County. As you are aware by now, I am not seeking re-election so this response has nothing to do with my political reputation which I stand by, or politics period.

Mr. Hawk reported my attendance record for the Board of Health as the Freeholder Alternate and he was quite correct in his numbers. However, he did not report the entire story so here it is. Each Freeholder heads a department that is responsible for several county services. In many cases, each of those services has one or more advisory board meetings attached to it. The Department that I Chair is the Department of Health. This Department encompasses the County Board of Health; Alcohol Center; Human Services Advisory Council; Medical Examiner; Mental Health Board; Cumberland Manor; Enrichment Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired; Division of Homeless; Office on Aging; Disabled Advisory Council and the Human Relations Commission. As you can imagine not only are there a significant number of meetings, in some cases they conflict with one another.

As a committee, we decided that in order to be sure that a Freeholder was in attendance at as many meetings as possible, we would divide the meetings between us to ensure that there is always coverage by one of us. In come cases, the Freeholders are not voting members but attend the meetings to report back to the full board on any key issues that may be of interest to the Freeholders.

In addition to that, I have implemented a monthly meeting with all of the key professional staff that is responsible for the day to day operation of the county services that fall under my department. Each Department Head provides a report at that meeting and it also gives me an opportunity to ask questions and have a meaningful discussion with the professional staff.

I wish that Mr. Hawk would have called me prior to putting his letter in the paper, as I would have reminded him of a discussion that we had at a previous Freeholder meeting where I shared all of this information with him and invited him to attend the meetings. They are scheduled for the second Tuesday of every month at 2pm at the County Administration Building. I would not like to believe that Mr. Hawk is deliberately trying to mislead the residents of Cumberland County.

Sincerely,

Reverend James A. Dunkins
Deputy Director
Cumberland County Board of Chosen Freeholders


Below is a reprint of the letter sent to the editor by Mr. Dean Hawk and published in the May 5th edition of The News Of Cumberland County

Freeholders must be more engaged on Board of Health

To the Editor:

The Cumberland County Board of Health has one meeting each month. There are two freeholders assigned to this board as voting members.

Presently this board is in the process of combining their board with the Vineland Board of Health and separating from the Salem Board of Health.

There are many questions to be answered, decisions to be made, votes to be taken and finances to be controlled.

For at least the last two years our county has been rated very low in many health categories by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. In many we were at the very bottom of their listings.

The county Board of Health is not directly responsible for our lowly showing, but they are certainly trying to put together a concentrated effort to work with other boards to achieve better results. Partnering with the Vineland board is one of the actions that should help them with this task. Support from our freeholder board is also a must if they are to make the maximum effort to make life better for our Cumberland citizens.

As voting members, the assigned freeholders are expected to attend each and every Board of Health meeting. If our freeholders were attending regularly, as required, some of the canceled meetings could have been held.

There is a lot of work to be done combining the two boards and everyone is needed. Attendance records for the freeholders on the last 24 Board of Health meetings:

  • Ms Jannarone: Attended 10 of 24 meetings = 42 percent attendance rate.
  • Mr. Dunkins: Attended 1 of 14 meetings = 7 percent attendance rate. (He actually made it to one other meeting, but only stayed 15 minutes then left.)
  • Mr. Riley: Attended 4 of 11 meetings = 36 percent attendance rate.

During that 24-month period, there were four meeting canceled due to lack of quorum.

Perhaps if the freeholders were there, business could have been conducted. It would be expected the freeholders would certainly put this board on their radar screen.

This is just one department. I hope the attendance for the freeholders overall is much better than with the Health Department. The freeholders wanted the job, worked for the votes, receive payment for their efforts, (although not a great deal), accepted the department assignment and are expected to follow through to the end of their term.

Dean Hawk
Upper Deerfield Twp.