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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Welfare Official Given Different Job Report Of Child Abuse Conviction Lands Him In A Less Visible Position

A top social services administrator has been shuffled out of the public eye after child-care providers protested his child abuse conviction.

John Hentze is no longer the Department of Social and Health Services’ chief contact for Spokane child-care providers on welfare reform issues - part of his special assistant duties.

Hentze now will handle personnel grievances and oversee projects aimed at automating welfare offices, said DSHS regional administrator Bernard Nelson.

The Spokesman-Review reported Sunday that Hentze pleaded no contest in 1993 to assaulting a 12-year-old relative. The girl accused Hentze of fondling her.

Hentze, 50, was initially charged with felony child molestation. He denies abusing the girl and said he accepted a misdemeanor assault conviction rather than face a trial.

Child-care providers who work with Hentze were alarmed to learn he can’t legally set foot inside their businesses.

Nelson met this week with Kathy Thamm of Family Care Resources, a child-care referral agency, and announced the change.

Deputy regional administrator Carl McMinimy is the new child-care liaison.

“That’s a good step,” Thamm said. “I don’t want to close communication with providers and parents and the department.”

The state is sensitive to criticism of the fledgling WorkFirst welfare-to-work program, and concerns over Hentze threatened to create a rift between child-care providers and DSHS.

Day-care operators are already concerned about some provisions of WorkFirst, including the below-market rate the state is paying them to care for welfare recipients’ children.

Nelson said he chose Hentze’s new duties carefully, but noted there are few areas in DSHS not related to children.

Nelson reprimanded Hentze but did not demote him for failing to disclose the conviction until 1996. The attorney general’s office and the State Patrol later probed Hentze’s background.

Hentze never had direct communication with children as the child-care liaison nor did he shape child-care policy, Nelson said.

Hentze remains Nelson’s special assistant, paid $58,780 a year.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

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