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State disabilities chief retires

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A month after a state audit reported that her agency does a poor job of providing and tracking services to Utah's disabled, state disabilities director Sue Geary announced her retirement Thursday.

Geary, who has been head of the state Division of Services for People with Disabilities for six years, was immediately replaced by Craig Monson as interim director, with his appointment effective Monday.

The legislative audit released last month criticized the division for making "often inconsistent and confusing" decisions about who gets services and why. Auditors said the division's list of disabled people waiting for services had "significant problems" with accuracy, and that the number of people waiting for services, the cost of those services and the percent of funding by the state are "unreliable."

The department oversees services to about 5,000 Utahns with disabilities and has estimated it would cost at least $12.5 million to expand services to those on a waiting list, which has an estimated 1,900 people.

The audit reported that the list overstates the actual number of those waiting by 24 percent and includes people who no longer want services, have moved or have died. Auditors said it would actually cost as little as $1.2 million and $7.5 million at the most to pay for services for everyone on the list.

Robin Arnold-Williams, director of the state Department of Human Services and who oversees the division, accepted Geary's resignation, calling her "a strong advocate for allowing people with disabilities to live as independently as possible. I respect her decision to retire at this time."

This time refers to tighter finances, growing demand to review the division's priorities and operations and following the recommendations of the legislative audit, Arnold-Williams said.

Monson has been directed by Arnold-Williams to implement better management practices to specifically address issued raised in the audit.

Geary said in response to the audit that the agency was aware of weaknesses in the waiting list and had been working to address them. She also said last month that it is inaccurate for the auditors to conclude that requests for services aren't evaluated or tracked.

Monson the past four years has been director of Human Services' Office of Services Review, which evaluates and reports on how well agency employees follow policy and procedures and meet service delivery goals.

Geary worked in human services for 20 years. She ran the division's central region, worked at the Developmental Center in American Fork and spent 10 years as a principal in the Provo School District.

E-MAIL: jthalman@desnews.com