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Montezuma Social Services director resigns amid questions; commissioners silent

Forkner served since 2014; district attorney investigating
Josiah Forkner has resigned as director of the Montezuma County Social Services department. He held the post since October 2014.

The director of Montezuma County Social Services has suddenly resigned, and the matter is being investigated by the 22nd Judicial District Attorney’s office.

Josiah Forkner took over as director in October 2014, overseeing a department of 30 employees managing an array of state and federal social programs. County administrator Melissa Brunner confirmed Thursday that Forkner resigned on Wednesday, but gave no reason for his resignation.

“He is moving on,” she said. “He’s been a good director. The commissioners were pleased with the progress he made in the department and his fiscal oversight.”

The director job will be advertised on the county website, Brunner said. In the meantime, she and other Social Service staff members are stepping in to handle the director’s duties.

Montezuma County District Attorney Will Furse told The Journal on Friday that a “preliminary investigation” is being conducted, but he did not provide details.

“The District Attorney’s office is conducting a preliminary investigation into this matter,” Furse stated in a text message. “No criminal charges have been filed, and no further comments will be made while the investigation is pending.”

Forkner declined on Friday to comment about work-related matters.

On Monday, Montezuma County commissioners did not comment about Forkner’s resignation, on the advice of county attorney John Baxter. Baxter said Forkner had been put on administrative leave a few days before his resignation last week, but he didn’t give a reason for the leave.

The commissioners also declined to respond to resident Lance McDaniel, who recommended in the commissioners’ weekly meeting that the board form a search committee for a Social Services director and consider additional oversight of county departments.

Forkner oversaw a major move of department offices spread out in different locations to a newly remodeled central location at the main county building. In advance of the move, he had saved $350,000 of department funds to help finance the move and remodel.

In a resignation letter to The Journal, Forkner thanked the county for its support and stated “he enjoyed the challenges that have come with working with the folks most in need in our county.”

He wrote that the department had a high performance rating during his term as director, and that the agency is in good financial health. He added he is most proud of the hard-working staff.

“It’s a tireless and thankless job that they willing do each and every day with excellence,” Forkner stated.” I will miss working with these professionals that are making a difference in our community.”

In July, Forkner was awarded a $200,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Human Services to help with local family-service programs. The funds are being used to help prevent the unnecessary separation of children from their families, improve the quality of care and services to children and ensure permanency for children by reuniting them with their parents by adoption or by another permanent living arrangement.

Forkner fought for adequate state funding and staffing to handle additional workload mandated by the state. While he made sure those who sought benefits received them if they were eligible, he also recognized the independent mindset of rural communities.

“Just because people are eligible for a certain entitlement doesn’t automatically equate to people believing they need that service,” he said in a statement to The Journal.

In August, he was one of the first to sound the alarm that the Child Health Plan Plus was in jeopardy because of lack of federal funding. The program provides low-cost insurance for children and pregnant women who earn too much to qualify for Colorado’s Medicaid Program.

“It is depended on by a lot of working families who don’t have health benefits at work, make too much for Medicaid, and who otherwise could not afford insurance for their kids,” he said in August.

In November, Forkner was elected to the Montezuma-Cortez Re-1 School District Board of Education, but he announced Thursday he would resign because he will be seeking a job outside the area. He has degrees in psychology and theology, and has a master’s in professional counseling. He is coaches Little League and Titans football.


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