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HHS director won't comply with subpoena; Questions over 9-year-old in hotel with needles

ASHEVILLE - Buncombe County's top child welfare administrator has set up a potential standoff with a legislative oversight committee, saying he will not comply with a subpoena over a 9-year-old girl police say they were told to leave in a hotel with 150 used needles and man she didn't know.

In a letter released Oct. 5 to the Citizen Times, a Buncombe Health and Human Services attorney told legislators that HHS Director Talmadge "Stoney" Blevins will appear as commanded in the committee's subpoena issued Sept. 22. But attorney Suzanne Avett said Blevins would not reveal information it sought because that was forbidden.

"Testimony or release of records related to a specific child welfare case is prohibited by federal and state law," Avett said. "Further, the statutes requiring confidentiality of child protective services records do not provide an exception for subpoenas, even those issued by a legislative committee." That interpretation has been backed up by a state specialist on juvenile law.

Edwards, who has recently been appointed as co-chair of the Social Services Regional Supervision and Collaboration Working Group, said he met with Buncombe DSS officials in April and state DSS officials in May over the issue but was not satisfied with information he was given.