Jackson father contacts FBI over child support case
One Jackson father says the Department of Human Services acted illegally when it tried to threaten him into paying thousands of dollars in child support he didn’t owe.
Shortly after Windell Blount made a complaint about his situation to the FBI, the Division of Child Support Enforcement was restructured, shuffling the division director, Walley Naylor, to a different position within DHS.
What concerned Blount the most, he said, was an attitude he perceived from DHS that this kind of thing happens regularly, and one that a local lawyer said wasn’t too surprising, given how underpaid and overworked DHS is.
“If a private lawyer took on that kind of a case load, it would be malpractice,” said John R. Reeves, a local lawyer who at one time represented Blount’s ex-wife.
“The system itself is set up to fail and it’s fraught with problems, and that’s a known fact throughout the legal community in Mississippi and the judicial community,” Reeves said. “It’s just a known fact.”
A request to Naylor for comment was answered by Cathy Sykes, who spoke on behalf of DHS. Sykes said, “(The parent) shouldn’t have any delinquencies without a court order.”
Blount, who divorced his wife in 2009, said if he had not been a full-time student studying prelaw at Tougaloo College and a certified police officer, he might not have recognized the improper manner in which DHS was issuing arrears without a court order to back it up.
Documents obtained by The Clarion-Ledger show Blount previously had been paying $490 a month in child support from his Social Security disability benefits, but when those benefits ceased, the chancery judge signed an order April 27, 2010, declaring he was not in contempt for owing child support.
A court date was rescheduled for July of that year to set a new amount, but Blount said his wife’s attorney was not prepared, and the issue was never resolved.
Blount began receiving letters and numerous phone calls in January of this year saying he owed back pay for child support, to which he responded by contacting DHS and asking them why he received the letters.
One letter from Hinds County DHS dated Jan. 15, said Blount owed $980 to DHS and indicated his driver’s license would be suspended if he did not pay the full amount or reach a repayment schedule agreement with DHS by April 14.
The second letter, dated Feb. 2, said he owed $490 in past due support, warning the amount would be reported to credit bureaus unless it was paid in 15 days.
A third letter from DHS to Blount dated Feb. 11 said if the money owed wasn’t paid, consumer reporting agencies, the secretary of state and the State Tax Commission would be alerted.
Blount said after attempts to communicate with DHS by letter were unanswered, he spoke on April 6 with Naylor, who he said informed him that DHS needed no authorization from the court to send anything to him.
“I said, ‘Sir, this is totally wrong. Show me the order,’ ” Blount said. “And the order was the same one … that said I was not in contempt,” Blount said.
Sykes said the letters may have been generated automatically.
“A lot of the letters are automatic,” Sykes said. “Letters go out if (noncustodial parents) are delinquent and that type of thing.”
Sykes said she had no idea how often automatic letters are mailed.
“We have over 205,792 cases for the state,” she explained.
Blount said he contacted the FBI on April 17 after hearing nothing back followinhg conversations with DHS attorney Scott Weatherly and Naylor.
On April 26, Naylor sent Blount a letter in which Naylor apologized for the inconvenience and informed him his case would be transferred to Yazoo County Child Support Office and would close in May.
Blount said his case was never transferred to Yazoo County.
Sykes, reading a statement from Naylor on the matter, said Naylor didn’t have any explanation for the letter he signed indicating the case would be transferred to Yazoo County.
“Normally those (letters) are typed by someone, and (Naylor) probably signed it and didn’t realize it was an error,” Sykes said.
Sykes said effective in October, the Child Support Enforcing Agency was rearranged to streamline services.
Blount said he knew his rights, but he is concerned for those who are uneducated about the law since they can become easy targets for what he sees as deception and possibly even fraud.
Written by Emily Lane | Clarion Ledger