LUMBERTON — A physical therapist from Lumberton was unanimously elected Tuesday as chairman of the Robeson County Department of Social Services board, replacing Raymond Cummings, who had chaired the board for more than a decade.
Also on Tuesday, county Commissioner Roger Oxendine was sworn in to a three-year term on the board. He fills a seat vacated by Cummings earlier this month after county commissioners failed to appoint him to another three-year term.
Derick Coe, the new chairman, has served on the five-member DSS board since August 2014, when he was named to replace Commissioner Jerry Stephens. Stephens gave up his board seat after only a month, saying he had a conflict of interest because a niece works for DSS.
“I want to thank the board for its confidence in me,” said Coe, who manages rehabilitation services for Southeastern Health in both Red Springs and Pembroke. “I will do my best and promise to do the will of the people.”
Oxendine thanked the Board of Commissioners for having the confidence to appoint him to the board.
“I take this oath to heart,” he said. “The work we do here is for and about DSS.”
The county commissioners had to take three votes before they finally voted 7 to 1 on Aug. 15 to accept Cummings’ nomination of Oxendine to replace him on the board. Cummings has served on the DSS board for 18 years.
“I am honored to have been appointed, but I would have loved to have seen Raymond continue to serve,” Oxendine said after being appointed. “He has done a great job.”
At two previous meetings, the commissioners had failed on 4 to 4 votes to reappoint Cummings or name someone to replace him. Cummings’ term expired June 30, but he was allowed to continue to serve until he was either reappointed or replaced.
Cummings, however, has been frequently criticized for being too involved in daily DSS operations, especially the hiring of department employees. Some called for him to step down from the board, saying he has a conflict of interest as a result of his son’s marriage to a DSS social worker.
In other business, the DSS board heard a brief update on the department’s 2016-17 budget from Faye Lovell, the department’s finance officer.
According to Lovell, the county’s share of the department’s $441 million budget is about $15 million. Of that total, about $13.7 million is to cover salaries for the department’s 335 employees, said Lovell.
Lovell said that more money will eventually come from the county commissioners to cover all employee salaries. During the 2015-16 fiscal year, she said, a total of $14.2 million was spent for salaries.
The commissioners are also providing $125,000 for the purchase of six vehicles, said Lovell, as well as $245,000 for continuation of a program that gives DSS field workers the ability through use the use of modern technology to do most of their work on-site rather than having to return to the office to complete investigations and submit case reports.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.