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5 top employees fired from AZ's child welfare agency

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

Five top employees have been fired from Arizona's new child welfare agency.

Director Charles Flanagan said these workers were responsible for the internal process that led to more than 6,500 abuse and neglect cases being closed without investigations.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety finished its investigation into what led to the crisis.

In November, the discovery of the thousands of uninvestigated cases prompted Gov. Jan Brewer to pull CPS from its parent agency and create a cabinet level post led by Flanagan.

Last fall, Flanagan placed five senior CPS workers on administrative leave. CBS 5 News confirmed that Program Administrator Deborah Harper and Program Manager Tracey Everitt were among the five.  Those two employees along with Jan Leineweber, Michelle Parker and Janet Sabol were terminated Wednesday morning.

Department of Economic Security Director Clarence Carter remains in his post.  But Carter sent out an email Wednesday saying that the DPS report, "paints a very troubling piccture of poor policy, practice, communication and decision-making that ultimately put many vulnerable Arizona children in harm's way."

Carter also fired one of his top staffers, Sharon Sergent.  She was the deputy director for all programs under DES, including CPS.

According to Flanagan the DPS investigation found no evidence that Carter was aware of the practice that led to the crisis.   

Brewer issued this statement Wednesday in response to the release of the DPS report on the neglected CPS cases.

"From the moment I first learned of this unacceptable and unlawful practice, I have insisted that there be a full and thorough understanding of how and why this occurred, so we could ensure that it never happens again in Arizona. That is why I took immediate action to create the CARE Team - whose diligent, transparent and independent oversight has been instrumental - and directed DPS to conduct an independent, thorough review of the process that led to this inexcusable situation. I also announced in my State of the State address a reorganized Division that reports directly to me.

"The DPS report is comprehensive and I am grateful to the dedicated investigators. While I continue to carefully review the report, one thing is crystal clear: it is vital that our state must continue the urgent effort to statutorily establish a new, standalone child protection agency whose core focus is safeguarding Arizona's abused and neglected children. We must breakdown the levels of bureaucracy, change the culture that allowed this unconscionable practice to be implemented behind the scenes and provide the necessary resources to protect Arizona's children.

"Because the safety of our children is one of the most important priorities - and because it is imperative that we work restore to public trust in our child safety system - I will be calling a Special Session in the immediate future to address this urgent issue. I look forward to working with lawmakers to accomplish this mission on behalf of Arizona children and families."

Stay with cbs5az.com and CBS 5 News for updates on this developing story.

Copyright 2014 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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