Department of Economic Security Director Clarence Carter responds Thursday to a series of questions from members of a special legislative panel about complaints of child abuse to his agency that were not investigated. [Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services]

Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services

Gov. Jan Brewer is willing to give Clarence Carter the benefit of the doubt about his culpability in more than 6,500 complaints of child abuse going uninvestigated — at least for the time being.

The governor said Monday she is expecting an investigation by the Department of Public Safety to find out “in a short time” exactly who decided it was OK to mark certain complaints as “NI,” as in not for investigation without any follow up. DPS Director Robert Halliday said that inquiry probably will be done sometime next month.

Potentially the most significant is that Halliday said while the inquiry is administrative, his agency also will consider if any laws were broken. That includes the one which requires every complaint to CPS that falls in the area of child abuse or neglect to be investigated.

“At this stage of the investigation we're still trying to go through data, e-mails, a lot of different things that are going to allow us to really look at this thing under a microscope,” he said Monday. Halliday said he will use subpoena powers, if necessary, to get what he needs.

Halliday said it is “inappropriate” for him to comment on what he has found so far.

He separately told members a special legislative oversight panel that he will not publicly release what his investigators find. Instead he said the report will go to Department of Economic Security Director Clarence Carter who could be one of the targets of the inquiry.

Gubernatorial press aide Andrew Wilder said the report will be made public — eventually.

“There has to be adequate time, appropriate time, to review and analyze the report,” he said, if for no other reason than so that Brewer will be able to answer questions from the media about what she intends to do with the findings.

In the meantime, Brewer said she'll wait to see whether the blame for marking 6,554 cases as not for investigation over four years is someone within Child Protective Services, higher up the pecking order at the Department of Economic Security, its parent agency — or Carter himself.

“We will get to the bottom of it and we will hold those who are responsible at the right time,” she said. “I don't think anyone in the public would want us to go in there and start rolling heads, if you will, because we thought maybe that might be the person. You don't convict anybody until you have the records and you have the information.”

The governor was less clear about whether she thinks whether, even if he neither approved nor was aware of the policy, Carter should be held at fault for not knowing what was going on within CPS.

“We always say that, at the top of the pile, if you will, the buck stops there,” Brewer said. But she said it's not that simple.

“As we all know, when you run huge agencies or you run government, sometimes you have staff that you depend upon,” the governor said. “And sometimes they let you down and they don't give you that information.”

Brewer said she's not going to “accuse somebody of anything until we have all the facts.”

There may be another factor at work that affects whether Carter remains at the helm.

Several lawmakers from both parties have called for his ouster, and that raises the question of whether the Legislature will approve more dollars for CPS with the current DES leadership.

Carter has submitted a request for an extra 444 new staffers, including 394 caseworkers on top of the current 1,211, to deal with the increasing caseload. That request, with a $115 million price tag, comes on top of an additional 200 staffers lawmakers added earlier this year.

Brewer has not yet commented on how much, if any, of Carter's request she will include in her own budget.

“Hypothetically, I know that we have a very conservative Legislature,” she said. “I know that money is tight.”

The governor said she has not yet decided if CPS really does need more money “or whether we need to utilize it better or more effectively.”

Halliday said he's not starting the investigation with the premise that laws were broken.

“As you go through any investigation that we do as an agency, you look at all those kinds of elements as you're going through all the data and information,” he said.

The DPS director sidestepped questions of whether his investigators have found any evidence of crimes.

“It's inappropriate for me to say at this time,” Halliday said.

Halliday did say that he is not sharing everything he is finding with Charles Flanagan. The director of the Department of Juvenile Corrections is chairing a separate task force created by Brewer to both take a closer look at CPS as well as ensure there is follow-up on each of the 6,500 cases that were ignored at the time the complaints came in.

“There are certain things that we keep really within our grasp,” Halliday said, especially when the DPS inquiry gets in to both criminal as well as administrative matters.

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