More than 30 employees of the Alexandria Department of Human Services have written letters to the mayor, City Council, the city manager and the director of personnel, asking that the social workers involved in Katelynn Frazier’s case not be disciplined.
The letters were written on Department of Human Services letterhead and those who signed them identified themselves as “child welfare social workers at the Alexandria Division of Social Services.”
One letter was from the “colleagues of Marilyn Mills," while the other was from those “who have been supervised by Janice Pritchett.” The social workers requested that the letter be made part of Mills’ and Pritchett’s personnel file.
Mills was the social worker responsible for supervising Katelynn Frazier’s case while the little girl was in foster care and after her return to her mother, Pennee Frazier. Katelynn was murdered by Pennee Frazier’s boyfriend, Asher Levin, just three months after her return to Pennee’s custody. During the three months that Katelynn lived with Pennee and Levin, she was beaten weekly until her death, according to testimony in the criminal cases that led to the imprisonment of both Pennee and Levin.
Pritchett was Mills’ direct supervisor. Both Mills and Pritchett were placed on administrative leave with pay in August, after Pennee pled guilty to child abuse and neglect in Katelynn’s death. An independent investigation that was ordered by the city, led to a recommendation that Mills and Pritchett receive 15 days suspension without pay and be transferred to jobs in which they are not responsible for children.
The letter from the social workers is in response to this recommendation.
“Mrs. Mills has served the citizens of Alexandria well and should not be held personally accountable for larger system failures beyond her control,” the letter said. “In fact, our review of the case indicates that Mrs. Mills managed an extremely complex case with extraordinary skill and attention to detail.
"Mrs. Pritchett provided skillful supervision with attention to detail. Alexandria would be losing one of its staunchest child advocates should Mrs. Pritchett (or Mills) be prevented from working in the field of child welfare.”
Councilwoman Claire Eberwein, who has raised many concerns about the city’s handling of Katelynn’s case, responded angrily by saying, “In the face of two reports from outside agencies and two criminal convictions, we get letters from Human Services, drafted on city stationery and, presumably, written on city time, that essentially states that nothing went wrong within the department and that blame should be placed on “vague laws, unclear policy, perplexing court decisions, distorted media reports, politically driven initiatives, etc.
"These are the actions of an agency that is in denial,” Eberwein said. “Any person who signed the letter should be removed from the City Manager’s Citizen Task Force that was set up to oversee improvements and changes at the department. I am angry that there is such a complete lack of accountability and unwillingness to acknowledge that we must do better. These actions undermine both the City Council and the city manager.”
Mayor Kerry J. Donley had a different response. “Any employee or citizen, for that matter, has the right to express an opinion on whatever subject they wish,” he said. “However, disciplinary action should, and will be taken, based on the facts. We have had an independent investigation into this matter and have been presented with the facts.”