In a hastily-scheduled news conference, on the second working day after Governor Shumlin’s return from vacation, Dave Yacovone announced today he is resigning as head of the Department for Children and Families. He’s taking, as Paul “The Huntsman” Heintz puts it, “an undisclosed job outside state government.” He and the Governor both insisted Yacovone’s departure was “unexpected and entirely voluntary.”
So why is my bullshit detector pinging nonstop?
Perhaps because the timing is awfully convenient for an Admininstration wishing to put a controversy behind it.
I have absolutely no inside information on this, but here’s what it looks like to me. DCF’s well-publicized troubles led to the forced ouster of Human Services Secretary Doug Racine on August 11. Three weeks later, Yacovone suddenly finds a new job. Which he won’t disclose. And which requires his immediate resignation.
That last item is a big one. Usually, top administrative jobs are filled in the course of months, not days or weeks. Yacovone had to have been looking around for a while now. And transitions are built in to the timing, so an executive has time to ease out of the old job. Not Yacovone; he’s out the door right now.
Doug Racine was fired, not for job performance, but for “style,” for failing to be a cheerleader for the Administration’s policies. Yacovone was a vocal defender of the agency’s work, so when it came time for him to go, he was allowed to pull the ripcord himself.
Perhaps a nice job opening was even arranged on his behalf.
The unspecified job is in Lamoille County, and involves human services in some form. Professionally, this has to be a significant step downward. There may be other factors in Yacovone’s case; he lives in Morrisville and he might want a job closer to home. He’s old enough that he might be looking to wind down rather than climb the ladder.
This is all speculation. What isn’t is the timing: three weeks after Racine’s departure, and a few days before Shumlin formally begins his re-election bid. Time to shove a skeleton back in the closet.
Personally, I don’t believe that DCF’s troubles warranted anyone’s departure, voluntary or otherwise. The Department has been chronically underfunded and understaffed, and the most capable administrator in the world can’t fully compensate for that. But political considerations are apparently more pressing at DCF than at Vermont Health Connect, whose problems, IMHO, are more serious and politically damaging. I’ll be interested to see if there are any conveniently-timed, face-saving departures at VHC in the near future.