WAXAHACHIE

Seventeen years of service to abused children and families of Ellis County came to an abrupt end for John Wyckoff.

The executive board of the Ellis County Children's Advocacy Center voted Friday, March 16 to remove Wyckoff from his position as the executive director. In a press release, the board cited “unreasonable” financial demands as the reasoning behind the termination.

Though, additional documents show the financial requests to be the end of a series of shortcomings questioned by board members and Ellis County District Attorney Patrick Wilson. The Ellis County District Attorney's Office works closely with the center during cases that involve mental, physical and sexual child abuse.

For instance, in March 2016, the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Texas conducted a site visit and reported several non-compliance issues to Wyckoff and the board of directors. An email to Wycoff states the feedback was supposed to be followed by a conference call between Children’s Advocacy Centers of Texas, Wyckoff and the board of directors.

“At the first available board meeting following this email, no mention was made of this report until I brought it up,” Wilson relayed. “The subject was promptly dismissed and, to my knowledge, no conference call with Children’s Advocacy Centers of Texas took place.”

Children’s Advocacy Centers of Texas [CACTX] identified nine issues with The Gingerbread House from timesheet records, working protocols, providing documentation of health care professionals meeting standards, unable to locate background checks for some staff and board members and not addressing all components of the Texas Standards for Children’s Advocacy Centers.

Wilson said he is unsure if the non-compliance issues were ever corrected.

CACTX also highlighted the strengths of the center. According to the 2016 report, under Wyckoff’s direction, he established profound community support, which was demonstrated by numerous local grants. The organization also acknowledged the active and engaged board of directors. Lastly, CACTX recognized the center’s organization, reporting, “on-site financial and programmatic records were well organized; files were incredibly thorough and consistent.”

Wyckoff also laid the groundwork for the center and achieved the construction of The Gingerbread House, according to the advocacy center’s press release.

In February 2017, Wilson emailed Wyckoff expressing several concerns about the technical operations of forensic interviews and the turn over rate of employees, as well as, the nonexistent communication about these matters with the DA’s office. The executive board of directors was also carbon copied to the email.

In the email to Wyckoff, Wilson wrote, “The lack of soundproofing in the interview room has been a problem since the center moved into its current facility years ago. I am dismayed that the problem has not yet been resolved.”

Concerning employee turnover, Wilson wrote, “In any organization where 100 percent of the paid staff independently resign within months of each other, it is reasonable to question the leadership of the organization.”

Wilson said Wyckoff never responded to the February email. Wyckoff admitted the relationship between the Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) and DA’s office was “fine.”

“As far as I know, I was doing a great job. [...] Now, I haven’t seen him [Wilson] in the building in over two years, and I haven’t spoken to him in over two years,” Wyckoff said when referencing the February email.

In the past year, Wilson gave serious consideration to withdrawing his office’s support of the existing CAC and starting a new one.

“I make no apologies for demanding the best for children who are victims of crime,” Wilson proclaimed. “Fortunately, the current leadership team in place on the center's board of directors also recognized the need for change.”

On Wednesday, March 14, Wyckoff said he was escorted out of the Gingerbread House by members of the executive board and was not presented his termination in writing.

Before Wyckoff read the press release stating his termination was due to his unreasonable financial demands, he said he had no recollection as to why the board insisted on his dismissal.

“I thought I was doing a great job because they gave me a salary increase last year. They [board members] were very excited when I told them I got the new sponsorship for the new play therapy room, and then 100 givers — I got the $10,000 for restricted the play therapy room. I had hired a new family advocate that starts Monday,” Wyckoff explained.

After Wyckoff read the press release and the reason for his termination was brought to his attention, he could only conclude that the nonprofit did not want to pay for his renewal of health insurance.

Wyckoff made it clear for the record that he did not request additional money or salary.

“I had so much more I wanted to accomplish. I wanted the second play therapy room done. I wanted the second licensed therapist,” Wyckoff continued with his goals of the center.

On March 15, Wyckoff wrote on Facebook, “Thank you for the support and messages; I loved working at The Gingerbread House and still had so much accomplishment there.”

Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450