Interim director selected for HHS department

Thompson will serve until permanent director found

By Mike Heine/The Week

(Published September 5, 2006, 10:08 a.m.)

A child psychologist was named interim director of the Walworth County Health and Human Services Department Tuesday.

County Administrator David Bretl put Dr. David Thompson in charge until a permanent replacement for departed director Diane "Dani" Maculan is found. Bretl had been acting as interim director.

Maculan resigned Aug. 14 for undisclosed reasons. She intended to stay on until Dec. 31, but Bretl effected her resignation immediately as allowed in her contract.

"David Thompson brings strong academic credentials as well as clinical experience to the position," Bretl said in a news release. "He has a long relationship with the county's Health and Human Services department that will enable him to effectively lead the department as the search for a permanent director progresses."

As a contracted doctor, Thompson has provided psychological clinical services to the department since 1992, the year after he started a private practice at his clinic in Burlington. He received a clinical psychology doctorate degree from DePaul University in 1986 and is the author of numerous articles and publications on psychology. He has taught undergraduate and graduate psychology courses at the University of New Orleans.

"The Health and Human Services Department has a strong management team and excellent treatment and service staff," Thompson said in the release. "I am proud to lead them as we pursue a commitment to top-quality services delivered in a compassionate and fiscally responsible way."

Thompson will assume the general administrative duties of the director, administrative assistant Becky Gove said. His contract has him working at the department three days a week, which likely will not change, she said.

"We're a pretty complex organization. We need someone who is in touch with the services that we need to provide," Gove said.

Maculan's tenure, which started March 2005, was controversial.

Her leadership style was often criticized by employees and department clients, culminating in a public bashing at a January county board meeting. That resulted in a fact-finding mission by an outside attorney who was charged with finding the source of the outcry from within the department.

Maculan's financial know-how was praised by county officials and county supervisors. The fact-finder claimed she saved taxpayers $4 million by avoiding a projected budget overage and finishing last year under budget. Maculan instituted a new philosophy that brought more service programs in-house, instead of being handled by outside service contractors. The programs allow the county to recover more Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.

Shortly before her resignation, Maculan was the focus of a sheriff's department investigation for comments she allegedly made at a staff meeting about threatening a county judge.

The department found that there was no threat from Maculan.

An anonymous letter sent to Judge Robert Kennedy prompted the inquiry. The letter accused Maculan of calling Kennedy an obscenity and threatening to run him over on his moped.

Bretl earlier said he was unsure if Maculan's resignation was related to the investigation.

The news release contained a joint statement from the county's four judges that praised Thompson, stating they were,"extremely pleased that an individual of this quality would step in and lead the department."

The search remains on for a permanent replacement. Ads are posted in area newspapers and on job search Web sites. A recruiter was also hired.

Finding a new director could take several months.

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