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Ex-county election official named head of DCF’s Wichita office

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, at 2:50 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, at 9:33 a.m.

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Bill Gale, former Sedgwick County election commissioner and Wichita City Council member, has been named the Wichita regional director for the Kansas Department for Children and Families, the state agency announced Monday.

Gale takes over an office that has seen upheaval in recent months.

In August, a state legislator requested an investigation into some practices by the Wichita office. The DCF concluded an internal investigation in October but chose not to release the report, citing confidentiality.

Diane Bidwell, who had been the regional director for more than two years, resigned on Oct. 18. Another high-level official in the Wichita office was placed on administrative leave a few days later, although she is currently listed as a DCF employee, an agency spokeswoman said.

In early November, Tim Henderson, a Sedgwick County juvenile court judge, asked the DCF to look into six to 12 cases involving adoptions in which Bidwell’s recommendation to the court is being challenged or is expected to be.

One of the complaints about the Wichita office was that it was directing children to FaithBuilders’ foster care homes and improperly providing confidential information to the nonprofit.

On Oct. 24, DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore suspended foster care placements with FaithBuilders, a Wichita nonprofit with 30 respite and foster care homes, until a review was completed. That review hasn’t been completed, a DCF spokeswoman said Monday.

Andrea Dixon, FaithBuilders’ director, has said her organization has done nothing wrong.

Gale also will be taking over at a time when the Wichita office is set to move from the Finney State Office Building downtown to an undetermined location in the area.

“I fully intend to make this a smooth transition for clients and staff,” Gale said in a news release. “There is plenty of work to do ahead of the move that will happen later this year.”

The Wichita office has 460 employees and handles cases in 10 counties in south-central Kansas.

Gale was the county’s election commissioner from 2003 to 2011 and served on the City Council from 1995 to 2003. He also has worked as an accountant and paraeducator for the Wichita school district. Since July 2012, he has been inspector general for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

“I am committed to helping Kansas families,” Gale said.

Mike Myers, the Kansas City regional director, has served as Wichita’s interim director since Bidwell left.

Reach Rick Plumlee at 316-268-6660 or rplumlee@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rickplumlee.

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