FREDERICK — The former director of a shuttered workplace for developmentally disabled adults opted Thursday to remain in jail rather than cooperate with a state-sponsored investigation of the center’s failure.
A Frederick County judge granted Jeanne Dalaba’s request to indefinitely postpone a hearing on her compliance with his order that she repay the Jeanne Bussard Center $51,000 and produce a computer and business records that disappeared from the Frederick-based nonprofit in July.
Dalaba has been jailed for contempt since Nov. 13. She could spend up to six months in jail and may also face criminal charges.
The middle-aged Dalaba, wearing an orange-and-beige-striped inmate uniform, stood silent as her lawyer, Frederick County Public Defender Mary Riley, told Circuit Judge G. Edward Dwyer, “At this point, there is no additional information to report to the court.”
Dalaba contends the center’s board of directors awarded her the money as repayment for a personal loan she had made to the center. She has denied taking the computer and business files.
Dalaba also may be liable for $69,000 in costs claimed by court-appointed receiver Invotex Inc., for chasing down false leads in the investigation. Invotex Managing Director Raymond J. Peroutka Jr. says two of the three board members named by Dalaba don’t exist. The third, Susan Blais, has testified she wasn’t involved in a supposed July meeting about the shutdown.
Peroutka says Dalaba created an email account in Blais’ name and sent fake emails to support her story.
On Thursday, he called Dalaba’s refusal to cooperate “extraordinary.”
“In my experience, it’s unique,” he told reporters.
Dalaba is appealing her contempt citation to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. The matter probably won’t be argued until next fall, said Brian Saccenti, chief attorney in the state public defender’s appellate division.
The Bussard Center provided commercial laundry and cleaning services. It closed abruptly in July. Dalaba had been the director for 12 years.
The center received operating funds from the Developmental Disabilities Administration of the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. It was overseen by the state Office of Health Care Quality, which licenses such workplaces.
Department spokeswoman Karen Black said in an email Thursday that the agencies are working “to increase monitoring efforts based on issues uncovered by the situation that occurred” at the Bussard Center.