Newsmakers for October 2010


After six years, Mary Mentaberry resigned last month as executive director of the Reno, Nev.-based National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, the primary policy voice and training provider for judges who handle child welfare and juvenile cases around the country. Retired judge Dale Koch of Oregon will serve as interim executive director while the council, which reports a membership of about 1,900 judges, commissioners and other law professionals, searches for a successor.

Mentaberry’s departure ended a nearly four-decade career that saw the council significantly increase its federal funding, get mired in a fraud investigation that muddied its image and make a major policy reversal on handling status offenders.

Her career at the council was an up-from-the-mailroom kind of story. She was hired in a clerical role soon after the council moved from Chicago to Reno in 1969, and has been there since, except for one four-year absence. She rose to become the council’s primary lobbyist to Congress and head of its department on permanency planning for children.

From the latter post she essentially ran the operation and had ambitions to rise to the top. After Executive Director Lou McHardy left in 1999, having served for 28 years, the next two leaders were outsiders who had rocky tenures of about two years each: David Funk and Judge David Mitchell. After Mitchell left in 2004, Mentaberry won the post.

By that time, Mentaberry had played a key role in boosting the council’s income.

In 1998, the council reported just under $8 million in revenue. By 2002, revenue totaled $14.3 million, with $12.2 million from federal grants and cooperative agreements, most from within the U.S. Office of Justice Programs. The council’s budget reached $15 million for fiscal 2008, according to its federal tax returns.

The council’s specialty has been winning federal earmarks: It was the first organization to secure an earmark from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) and has brought in more than $20 million in earmarks since 2001, pulling in between $1.75 million and $4.5 million each year.

Mentaberry’s leadership style drew strong loyalty from some employees, but others say she was harsh on those who questioned her. One was lawyer Serena Hulbert, who filed a wrongful termination claim against the council in 2005, saying that after she raised questions about the council’s use of federal grants, Mentaberry and others created a “hostile work environment,” harassed her and eventually pushed her out. The council settled the case with Hulbert.

Hulbert also filed a complaint with the Justice Department over the council’s use of department funds, which led to an investigation into whether the council falsified employee time sheets, billed the federal government for work by “ghost” employees, failed to disclose that it hired the spouses of employees and fired Hulbert for questioning those practices.

In 2008, the council agreed to pay $300,000 to settle the allegations. Mentaberry agreed to pay $16,500 to settle conflict-of-interest charges stemming from her husband’s being paid to negotiate leases for the council. Mentaberry and the council denied any wrongdoing.

When the settlement became public, Mentaberry wrote to supporters that the incident had created a “firestorm” and one of the “most significant challenges the NCJFCJ has faced in its history.” The council launched a campaign to repair its image, especially among members of Congress and federal funders.

Many juvenile justice policy advocates credit Mentaberry with swinging the council toward official opposition to the valid court order (VCO) exception. Federal statutes penalize states that detain status offenders — juveniles who are accused of doing things that are illegal only because of their age, such as buying tobacco or skipping school —unless a judge has previously issued them a court order to not engage in such behavior.

The exception has been hotly debated within the membership ranks of the council, and Mentaberry helped secure a reversal of the council’s position earlier this year.

Koch, the incoming interim executive director, was president of the council from 2006 to 2007. The council’s daily operation is overseen by the executive director, while a different judge is elected each year to serve as president. Contact: (775) 784-6012,



Robin Ganzert is the new CEO of the American Humane Association, the Denver-based advocate for child and animal protection. She takes over for former board member George Casey, who has been holding down the fort since Marie Wheatley stepped down in January after a six-year tenure atop the organization.

Ganzert served as deputy director of philanthropic investment at the Philadelphia-based Pew Charitable Trusts. Before that, she was national director of philanthropic strategies with Wachovia Wealth Management, also in Philadelphia.

She inherits a staff with some recent additions to its senior leadership on children’s issues. John Sciamanna from the Child Welfare League of America was added to head  government affairs, and Robert Sawyer was tapped to serve as senior fellow of American Humane’s children’s division.

American Humane’s child advocacy work focuses on eight concepts, including chronic neglect, differential responses in child welfare, family group decision-making and restorative juvenile justice. Contact: (720) 873-6771,


Kathy Spangler joins Westport, Conn.-based Save the Children as vice president of U.S. Programs for the global nonprofit, which had total revenue of $455 million last year against $465 million in expenses.

 For the past three years, Spangler worked at Washington, D.C.-based America’s Promise Alliance, the nation’s largest multi-sector nonprofit organization dedicated to the well-being of young people. She held the positions of executive vice president of partnerships and programs, chief operating officer and, most recently, chief development officer. 

Prior to joining the Alliance, Spangler served as director of national partnerships for the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) for 20 years.

Save the Children’s U.S. programs focus mostly on literacy, recreation, early childhood programs and assistance to areas that are in crisis after disasters. Contact: (800) 728-3843,


The Arlington, Va.-based Communities In Schools, led by President Dan Cardinali, promoted its capital campaign director Debra Montanino to the newly created position of chief development officer. Montanino will be responsible for formulating and implementing a comprehensive resource development strategy for CIS.

Prior to joining Communities In Schools, Montanino served as the senior vice president for external affairs at Washington, D.C.-based American Rivers for almost six years. Earlier in her career, she served as executive director of the Ellington Fund, the nonprofit arm of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington.

CIS and its 194 affiliates in 27 states use schools as a conduit of services and support to children and families. Contact: (703) 519-8999,


The Dublin, Ohio-based Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, led by Executive Director Rita Soronen, hired Staci Perkins to serve as director of marketing and communications. Perkins worked for ThisWeek Community Media, a division of The Columbus Dispatch, where she was director of marketing and communications and editor of Columbus Parent Magazine.

The foundation operates campaigns to promote the adoption of children in foster care and assists other agencies in that area. Contact: (800) 275-3832,


Tracy Wareing, a senior adviser to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, is the new executive director of the American Public Human Services Association, a Washington, D.C.–based association of government health and human service professionals. She succeeds Jerry Friedman, who left in February.

Wareing followed Napolitano, former governor of Arizona,  to Washington. Back West, Wareing served for three years as Napolitano’s director of the Arizona Department of Economic Security, a human service agency with more than 10,000 employees and an annual budget of more than $3.2 billion that handled most financial support services for children and families in need. Contact: (202) 682-0100,



The Framingham, Mass.-based Staples Foundation for Learning, which makes grants aimed at youth development and educational opportunities, named Staples Inc. President Mike Miles to be its president. He replaces Ron Sargent, who will step aside from foundation duties but remains the CEO of Staples Inc. Contact: (800) 782-7537,


John S. and James L. Knight Foundation hired Siobhan Canty to be program director for strategic initiatives. Canty was CEO of Greater DC Cares, which facilitates volunteer work for charities in Washington, D.C., area. The foundation primarily funds efforts to advance journalism in the digital age and strengthen communities in 26 U.S. cities. Contact: (305) 908-2600,


Native Americans in Philanthropy, which is based in Minneapolis,  hired Carly Hare to be its executive director. Hare was the development director for the Boulder, Colo.-based Native American Rights Fund. She succeeds Joy Persall, who left after seven years to begin a fellowship at the Bush Foundation in St. Paul, Minn. Contact: (612) 724-8798,



Robert Velasco is the new chief operating officer at the Corporation for National and Community Service, which has been led since February by CEO Patrick Corvington.

 Velasco, the agency said in a news release, will be tasked with two major jobs: “assessing our current operations infrastructure” and “developing a strategy for what infrastructure is needed to support the growth called for by the Serve America Act.” The act calls for a dramatic expansion of the AmeriCorps program over the next five years.

Velasco joined CNCS from the Department of Health and Human Services, where he had worked since 1995. He held senior positions within the HHS Administration on Children and Families before moving to the Office of Medicare Hearings and Appeals, where he was director of management operations. Contact: (202) 606-5000,


The name of a candidate for the administrator position at the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention has emerged.  It’s California Superior Court Judge Kurt Kumli.

It is a little surprising that a judge would give up a spot on the bench for a chance at a federal job that could end in two years. But multiple sources have said Kumli has interviewed for the job.

Kumli spent 17 years with the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, and for 15 of those years focused solely on juvenile and child welfare issues. He is a Democrat, but was appointed to the bench in 2006 by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R). That appointment undoubtedly came in part due to Kumli’s work on Schwarzenegger’s Juvenile Justice Working Group, which was started in 2004 and tasked with reforming the Division of Juvenile Justice (formerly known as the California Youth Authority).

Kumli also serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco, and has worked on juvenile justice issues with the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and the Vera Institute of Justice.

 “I think Kurt’s an excellent choice,” said Dan Macallair, executive director of the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ). “He’s far and above the best D.A. on juvenile justice. I was actually somewhat disappointed when he became judge, because I thought he could be so much more effective as a D.A.”

Macallair recalls Kumli emerging as a hard-line juvenile prosecutor and tempering his approach once he observed the way the juvenile justice system functioned (or didn’t) – not unlike another former prosecutor-turned-OJJDP boss, Shay Bilchik.

“He has a level of understanding and empathy that, frankly, you don’t find among many elements of the California system,” Macallair said.

Contact: (202) 307-5911,


James Lankford, a Christian youth camp director, defeated a former member of the Oklahoma Legislature to win the Republican nomination for a congressional seat in central Oklahoma.

Lankford, who is 42, ran the Falls Creek Baptist Youth Camp from 1996 until 2009. The camp is one of the largest in the nation; it served 51,000 youth last summer, according to Lankford’s campaign website.

He bested State Rep. Kevin Calvey in a primary last month. He will now face Democratic nominee Billy Coyle and two independents on Nov. 2 in the race to replace incumbent Mary Fallin (R), who is the Republican nominee for governor. Contact:



Joan Schine, 87, former director of the National Center for Service Learning in New York City. Schine led a controversial movement in the late 1960s to bus city students from Bridgeport, Ct. into schools in the suburb of Westport. She later became an early driving force in the push to connect young people with community service work.


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