Governor Chris Sununu says the head of the state's child protective services division has been placed on administrative leave, following a report that more than 1,500 cases of suspected abuse and neglect were closed over a two-day period last year.
In a statement Sununu said placing Division of Children, Youth and Families Director Lorraine Bartlett on leave was part of the state's response.
Bartlett had announced earlier this year she planned to retire in April, meaning she is effectively terminated.
The Concord Monitor reported Sunday that shortly after an independent review of DCYF had been announced, the agency suspended normal procedures to close out a backlog of more than 1,500 abuse and neglect investigations over two days last February.
"I was absolutely shocked," Sununu told NHPR's Morning Edition. "I read the story over the weekend. I got on the phone immediately with Commissioner (Jeffrey) Meyers. He read the story for the first time over the weekend. I think it's safe to say he was as appalled as I was."
Sununu says he instructed Meyers to sit down with department heads to find out what happened.
"The fact that the state would close 1,500 cases over two days, there's no way to do that without some arbitrary closure of cases," Sununu said.
He says the state will likely hire a special investigator to review the cases.
"Some may have been closed properly, but it is very likely - I think that is safe to say - that many of them were not closed properly," Sununu said. "At the end of these issues, we have to remember these aren't just files, these aren't just cases, these aren't just statistics; these are people, these are kids."
Bartlett told the Monitor workers had determined the children in those cases were not in immediate danger.
Health and Human Services director Jeffrey Meyers says he wasn't made aware of the closure of the cases, and wasn't done in accordance with DCYF policies and procedures.
"To close over 1,500 open assessments in a period of two days – I don’t see how you can really treat those assessments with the time and attention that they need," Meyers told NHPR. "It’s just very disturbing."