Story by Mike Nolting, MetroNews

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Delegate Amy Summers is sponsoring a bill that she believes will improve transparency involving the agencies that used to make up the DHHR.

House Health Chairwoman Amy Summers, R-Taylor, participates in an interim committee meeting. (Will Price/West Virginia Legislative Photography)

Summers said if HB 4595 becomes law the Legislative Oversight Commission on Health and Human Resources Accountability to review matters of concern in an executive session. The group of six delegates and six senators could use the option in a case like the neglect case last year in Sissonville, where two children were found living in a shed locked from the outside.

“This bill allows us to go into executive session on a limited basis to conduct investigations, review documents, and hear testimony on information considered confidential,” Summers, R-Taylor, said during a Monday appearance on MetroNews “Talkline.”

In the Sissonville case, there were neighbors who said they had called Child Protective Services (CPS) several times but were never called back. CPS refused to release the information, citing state law prohibiting the release of information about children in their care.

Summers said this provision could have provided enough information to help lawmakers determine if there is a problem within the system or if it is a problem relating to personnel.

“We feel this can be done by us going in to hear the information, and then if there are flaws in the system, we are aware of them and we can push for corrective action,” Summers said.

All of the questions swirling in the media and public surrounding Sissonville would be questions that would be posed in an executive session regarding a similar case.

“We need to know—when did they go? What did they find while they were there? Is there something that should have alerted them to a problem that they didn’t notice?” Summers added. “All of these questions the public has, we will have.”

The second part of the legislation would require the agency to set goals and communicate those goals to lawmakers. Lawmakers then would monitor the agency and progress with the ability to call attention to areas of concern.

“Setting the program performance evaluation process,” Summers said. “So, they are to tell us what their goals are and how they are measured.”

If a review is unsatisfactory, further action could be taken by the Finance Committee, according to Summers.

“Are you meeting the goals that you set, and if not, maybe we need to redirect that money to something else,” Summers said.