(Richmond, IN)--More sanctions have come againstWernle Youth and Family Services in Richmond.
Recently, according to an Indiana Department of Child Services spokesperson, Wernle was formally placed on probation by the state. That probation is the latest in a recent series of incidents that has affected virtually every aspect of Wernle.
Wernle began as an orphanage 145 years ago. In the 1950’s, it morphed into a facility for children with emotional and behavioral problems. In the last five years, Wernle began to experience its own problems.
In 2019, a Wernle counselor was caught going behind an on-campus dumpster to have sexual relations with a 14-year-old resident.
Also in 2019, the parents of a 13-year-old filed suit against Wernle, alleging their child had been repeatedly beaten and attacked and that Wernle was not taking steps to prevent it.
In 2022, a 15-year-old female Wernle escapee went into a Richmond neighborhood where she broke into a home at night, robbed, and nearly stabbed an elderly female resident to death.
Throughout the last five years, while those events were occurring, the Richmond Police Department was responding to hundreds of calls for service at Wernle. Generally, those calls involved either fights or runaways.
It prompted the state, in 2020, to place all four of Wernle’s licenses on referral hold for all DCS and probation placements. That referral hold meant that Wernle’s number of residents began dropping.
Now, according to tax documents and a state spokesperson, Wernle’s occupancy has dropped from a recent high-water mark of 59 in 2019 to just nine today.
Those same documents are available to the public on propublica.com. They indicate that, despite the dwindling number of residents, the state sanctions, and the recent criminal events, CEO Darrell Gordon receives a salary that is far and away higher than most other non-profits in Wayne County and one that is higher than many other similar organizations across the country. Again, according to Wernle’s most recent tax statements, Gordon received $255,827 in salary and deferred compensation in 2021, which is the most recent year statements are available. By comparison, for that same year and excluding Gordon’s salary, the average salary of a CEO of a Wayne County non-profit was $77,000. In a four-year stretch between 2015 and 2018, tax documents indicate Gordon was paid just over $1.8 million in salary and deferred compensation. Gordon’s salary alone in 2018 was listed at just under $700,000. The Wernle Board of Directors is responsible for establishing Gordon’s compensation package.
Monday night, the state indicated that Wernle’s probation means that its operations will be closely monitored with surprise inspections as often as once a week while the hold continues. Wernle has not responded to contacts regarding the probationary status.