August 4, 2001
Professor ousted from child-support panelDaniel F. Drummond
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III's health secretary has dismissed from a child-support advisory panel a Howard University professor who has criticized the group in an op-ed article in The Washington Times.
Health and Human Resources Secretary Louis F. Rossiter last week dismissed political science professor Stephen Baskerville from the 2001 Virginia Triennial Child Support Guideline Review Panel. He cited a June 17 op-ed article in The Times in which Mr. Baskerville accused the panel of cronyism and of criminalizing fathers.
"I find it difficult to see how you could effectively participate along with representatives of other groups that very likely have different perspectives than yours," Mr. Rossiter wrote in a July 23 letter to Mr. Baskerville.
The Times has obtained a copy of the letter.
Mr. Baskerville, a divorced father of two who lives in Northern Virginia, said he was removed from the panel because of his politically incorrect views about child support and its enforcement.
He also said the law forming the panel calls for disparate points of view among its members.
"It bothers me that the Gilmore administration claims they are being more diverse, and here they are excluding opinions that are not approved of by the government," said Mr. Baskerville, who was appointed to the panel April 27 by Secretary Claude A. Allen. Mr. Allen is now a deputy secretary in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Richard Parker, a spokesman for Mr. Rossiter, said Mr. Baskerville was not dismissed for his views but because Mr. Baskerville, in assailing the panel, did not display an open mind.
During an appearance Thursday in Springfield, Mr. Gilmore said he was unaware of the situation but doubted that Mr. Rossiter would dismiss Mr. Baskerville solely because of his views.
Gilmore spokeswoman Lila White said the governor, who is also chairman of the Republican National Committee, "is fully confident in his secretary for health and human resources."
Virginia's Division of Child Support Enforcement estimates the state has 200,000 delinquent parents who collectively owe more than $1.7 billion in support for more than 541,000 children. Last year, the state collected more than $391 million in support payments.
The 12-member child support advisory panel was formed in 1988 and is required by federal law to meet at least every four years. The next panel will convene this summer.
In a June 17 op-ed article in The Times, Mr. Baskerville said the actions of the 1999 panel amounted to "the foxes guarding the hen house" and that "at least 10 of the 12 members derived income from the divorce system: two judges, four lawyers, a feminist, an enforcement official, two custodial parents, and a legislator."
"All of these people have a stake in encouraging divorce and criminalizing fathers and therefore in making child support as onerous as possible," Mr. Baskerville wrote, adding that the state had an inherent conflict-of-interest in choosing the panel's members.
According to documents provided by Mr. Rossiter's office, five of the 12 members of the 1999 panel are also on the 2001 board.
As a member of the panel, Mr. Baskerville would have represented parents who pay child support. His criticisms of the child support system have appeared in 13 other opinion pieces in The Times and Insight magazine since 1999.
Mr. Parker said Mr. Baskerville should have made his concerns known first to the panel, adding that the 14-year university professor is free to express his views at any of the panel's public hearings.
"Before it even started, he was criticizing it," Mr. Parker said. "He should have expressed his concerns in the context of the panel and not the press."
Mr. Baskerville said his criticisms in his op-ed article reflect a minority viewpoint and should not be construed as an "official comment" on the panel, adding that he hopes to be reappointed. But Mr. Parker said Mr. Rossiter's decision is final.
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