An internal investigation characterized as a personnel matter has resulted in two Washtenaw Head Start managers – including the program’s director – being put on administrative leave earlier this week.
Head Start director Patricia Horne McGee and senior management assistant Lovida Roach (who is Horne McGee’s second-in-command) were placed on administrative leave on Tuesday, Dec. 13. Roach was put on leave in the morning, while Horne McGee was put on leave around 5:30 p.m. the same day, according to Diane Heidt, the county’s human resources and labor relations director. Cassandra Sheriff, site director for the Ypsilanti Head Start location, is acting as interim director.
Heidt said an investigation has been underway since early October, in response to allegations that required the human resources staff to act. Heidt could not provide additional details, saying the investigation is a personnel matter and very sensitive, given that it relates to the Head Start program. She expects the investigation to wrap up in early January. At that time, either the two women will return to their jobs, or other action will be taken, Heidt said.
Horne McGee, who was hired to lead Washtenaw Head Start in 1999, is one of about 20 appointed department heads at the county, overseeing an annual budget of about $4.8 million for a program that serves more than 500 children throughout the county. Heidt said it’s rare for a department head to be put on administrative leave.
In response to a query from The Chronicle, Heidt said the allegations and subsequent investigation are in no way related to a transition underway to relinquish the county’s management of the local Head Start program. “Not one bit – I can be very clear on that,” she said.
The county board voted less than a month ago to approve a budget that eliminates funding for Head Start in 2013, as part of cuts in a two-year budget that faced a $17.5 million deficit. It was a controversial decision – one that Horne McGee vigorously opposed – that will set in motion the severing of ties between the federal program and the county, which has administered it locally for 46 years. [For additional Chronicle coverage, see: "Options Weighed for Washtenaw Head Start" and "Head Start Advocates Make Emotional Plea"]