ROBERT — The commission that oversees the Florida Parishes Juvenile Detention Center appointed a new executive director for the facility Wednesday night, just one month before voters reconsider a property tax renewal needed to keep the center open.
The commission appointed Joseph Dominick, the center’s director of maintenance and female services, to the executive director post for one year, effective immediately.
Dominick replaces Interim Director Donald Washington, who also serves as the detention center’s director of clinical services.
Dominick and Washington were the two finalists for the job following a round of interviews last week with the top four candidates, Commission Chairman David Merlin Duke said. Seventeen qualified applicants originally sought to fill the vacancy created by former executive director Tom Jarlock’s resignation late last year.
“We want to thank Don Washington for taking the reins during a tumultuous time,” Duke said. “We could not have done it without him.”
Duke said the commission hopes the appointment of Dominick, who began working at the detention center as a cadet in 1996 and progressed to the rank of captain, will inspire the staff, which has been plagued in recent years by morale problems stemming from alleged discrimination and retaliation by management.
The appointment also signals a renewed focus on budgetary concerns, as the commission prepares to wage a media campaign informing voters about the 3-mill, 10-year property tax renewal on the April 9 ballot.
The tax, which provides more than 85 percent of the juvenile detention center’s funding, was soundly defeated in November in all five parishes the center serves — Livingston, St. Helena, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and Washington.
If the tax fails again next month, the facility would be forced to close within a year or so, the commissioners have said.
“There are going to be some changes, both fiscally and in terms of our organizational structure,” Dominick said of his intentions as the new executive director.
The center has nine open positions, the duties for which may be reassigned to existing staff, Duke said. Dominick’s former duties as maintenance director may also be absorbed by existing personnel.
The open positions have saved the commission $381,000 in salaries and benefits thus far this year, accountant David Danel said.
“There will also be changes, not in how we deal with the kids, but in how we outreach to the public,” Dominick said, noting the facility now has a Facebook page.
Duke said he hopes that with Dominick’s appointment the commissioners will be able to remove themselves from the daily operations of the facility and focus on programs to help steer the community’s youth in a more positive direction.
“We’d love for the commission to be able to focus on outreach to further the goals of juvenile justice, rather than juvenile detention,” Duke said.
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