Polk County Courthouse (Courtesy of Jolene Guzman/Polk Itemizer-Observer)
Just days before Thanksgiving last year, a juvenile was taken to a hotel in Dallas and fell asleep.
As he slept, a state worker assigned to care for him overnight invited another worker to come over. The two started having sex in a bed next to the sleeping boy.
According to a tort claim filed with the state last week, the boy woke to what was happening. He was threatened and told to not tell what he had seen.
Salem attorney David Kramer, now representing the juvenile, said in his tort claim that the boy was moved to a juvenile detention facility and remains in state custody. Such a claim alerts the state that it may be sued, affording a chance for state officials to resolve claims short of a lawsuit.
Those details emerged after Salem Reporter reported the state Justice Department investigated the two workers for first-degree official misconduct, endangering the welfare of a minor and private indecency but decided not to prosecute.
The state has had a practice of putting children into motels with state workers when agency officials can’t locate a foster home. Often, two workers are assigned for the overnight duty.
State records show that eight days after the reported hotel incident, two employees in the state Human Services Department’s child welfare program were put on paid administrative leave “pending the outcome of a current investigation.” Supervisor Mark Walsh and paralegal Kate Guy remain on leave, according to the state, paid monthly wages of $6,862 and $4,295, respectively.
In the tort claim, Kramer said that the supervisor arranged the overnight stay so “he could secretly use the hotel room for a sexual liaison with another DHS employee.”
The following day, the tort claim said, the boy was put into juvenile detention as intimidation to keep him quiet “despite the fact he had committed no new offense that would warrant further incarceration.”
Three months later, their boss, program manager Stacey Daeschner, was put on paid leave “pending the outcome of an investigation into concerns of your conduct in the workplace,” according to the Feb. 14 letter obtained by Salem Reporter. Daeschner earns $9,177 per month.
Current contact information for Walsh, Guy and Daeschner could not be located to request comment.
DHS Communications Director Robert Oakes Thursday couldn’t address whether Daeschener’s leave was connected to the hotel investigation.
“I’ll have to check with human resources on that. I can tell you that she’s also the subject of an ongoing personnel investigation,” he said.
The tort notice filed by Kramer seeks records regarding the minor, and describes the actions by the DHS workers as “wrongful and unlawful in a variety of ways,” including restraining the juvenile unlawfully and not giving him due process.
“Claims will be brought on behalf of my client for economic, non-economic and punitive damages that were caused by the foregoing misconduct,” Kramer wrote.
Oakes said the agency doesn’t discuss potential lawsuits.
“That’s the subject of an ongoing personnel investigation and we don’t comment on litigation. I can tell you that we expect all employees to hold themselves to the highest standards,” he said.
“We continue to provide services to our clients in Polk County with temporary leadership and make sure all of our clients get taken care of on an ongoing basis,” he said.
Have a tip? Contact reporter Troy Brynelson at 503-575-9930, firstname.lastname@example.org or @TroyWB.