SEOUL — A complaint filed by a former director of a private preschool at U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan launched a U.S. Army investigation that ultimately led to a decision to close the long-running program later this spring.
According to an executive summary released by the garrison Wednesday, the complainant, who was not identified, had applied for the directorship of the Mustard Seed Preschool but had not been selected.
The complaint, filed on Oct. 11 to the garrison commander, alleged unfair hiring practices at the Christian-based preschool that included favoritism in hiring by the garrison chaplain’s office, which oversaw the hiring process.
“The selecting official is alleged to have improperly handled the application process by selecting a personal friend as the incoming director and four other staff members,” the summary stated. “It is also alleged that the Garrison Chaplain concurred with the former director’s decisions without reviewing all other applicant’s credentials and not conducting any of the interviews.”
The anonymous complaint triggered an Installation Management Command Pacific Region audit that found nine areas where the program was not in compliance with Army regulations. At least seven of those deficiencies, which have not been publicly released, were not correctable and led to the garrison’s decision to close the preschool on May 23.
Mustard Seed, which has approximately 93 students and operates out of the South Post Chapel, opened in 1976 but after the anonymous complaint, officials could not find a charter for the program and said it might be operating illegally. News that the program might close during the school year led many parents to fear that the preschool might quickly be shut down, leaving them without child care.
During the investigation, officials determined that while all nine preschool employees had undergone some background checks, some had not completed the more thorough checks mandated by the military. That discovery led the garrison to place Child, Youth and School Services employees in classrooms to act as what Garrison commander Col. Michael Masley called “a second set of eyes” until checks could be completed.
The complainant requested that the garrison investigate hiring procedures for the directorship, review all candidates’ applications and take action to ensure that future hiring was conducted within regulations. The request also asked that the complainant be hired for the position.
Yongsan spokesman Mark Abueg said the garrison would not release a copy of the initial complaint “in order to protect individuals/witnesses from an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. The executive summary does nothing to change the substance of the initial complaint.”