Articles on Records & Confidentiality

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Postby Marina » Sun Dec 07, 2008 8:34 pm ... -2008.html

December 5

WILKES-BARRE – Prosecutors in a case of involuntary manslaughter linked to the death of a 3-month-old filed court papers Thursday stating that Department of Public Welfare records are “irrelevant” to the case.

The records include documents concerning the January 2007 death of 3-month-old Xavier Simmons. In court papers, assistant district attorneys David Pedri and Jarrett Ferentino said that if records are submitted to a trial that is scheduled to begin next week, the jury will be confused because the documents are “voluminous, confusing and misleading to the matter at hand.”

Simmons’ mother, Tiffany Simmons, 26, of North Vine Street, Hazleton, is charged with involuntary manslaughter and endangering the welfare of children in the child’s beating death. She is scheduled to stand trial on the charges beginning with jury selection on Monday.

Simmons’ boyfriend, Alen Leitzel, 25, of West Hazleton, is charged with homicide in the infant’s death.

In court papers filed Thursday, prosecutors say Luzerne County Children and Youth completed an investigation into the death of the infant and found there were no violations of regulations.

The attorneys say the Department of Public Welfare records are irrelevant because an inquiry into the child’s death ended on March 4, 2008, “long after the death of Xavier Simmons and is tangential to the matter at hand.”

The attorneys asked a judge to “preclude the introduction and all testimony regarding a Department of Public Welfare inquiry, investigation and/or license status of Luzerne County Children and Youth in this matter.”

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Postby Marina » Sat Dec 13, 2008 6:38 pm ... ?s=9490997

Casper Star-Tribune sues to get court records

Associated Press - December 9, 2008 12:16 PM ET

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) - The Casper Star-Tribune has gone to court seeking to force the release of records in child endangerment cases that don't involve sex crimes.

The newspaper's petition asks the Natrona County District Court to order the Natrona County Circuit Court to allow the public to have access to the documents.

The circuit court currently doesn't release records of any cases involving juvenile victims although the court proceedings themselves are open to the public.

The newspaper filed its petition after the circuit court refused to release documents related to criminal charges against two men charged in connection with the August boating death of an 11-year-old boy.

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Postby Marina » Wed Dec 17, 2008 7:24 pm ... py_records

DCF slapped over sloppy records
Report criticizes agency in case of suspected foster children abuse.

By Paul Pinkham Story updated at 9:00 AM on Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2008 EMAIL PRINT BLOG THIS COMMENT Buzz up!

The Florida Department of Children and Families repeatedly violated state laws and its own procedures by not releasing records to lawyers for children in a Nassau County foster home abuse case, an internal report by the department's general counsel obtained Tuesday by the Times-Union says.

The department also improperly destroyed and misplaced some records, failed to retrieve others from foster parents and illegally released confidential child-abuse reports without a court order to a lawyer representing department employees, the report says. Those were the same records that department lawyers in Jacksonville told the children's lawyers they couldn't find, a situation the report called "inexplicable."

"The facts and circumstances of this case reveal that record management procedures in the Northeast region are inadequate," the report says.

It decries the fact that the violations continued even after Gov. Charlie Crist implemented an open-government office in Tallahassee and an open-government commission on which the Children and Families secretary serves.

"The governor's actions should have triggered a review of pending public records requests within the agency," the report says. "Had such review occurred, the agency would have been spared the waste of considerable time and energy and the loss of precious credibility."

The report came after the department's general counsel's office reviewed allegations by lawyers for three children - then 3, 5 and 8 - who sued the department over abuse they suffered at the hands of a 14-year-old boy in a Nassau County foster home in 1999 and 2000. The department settled their claim in state court Tuesday for $1.2 million, said spokesman John Harrell. He said the state would pay about $900,000; the rest will come from insurance.

A companion lawsuit against three former department employees continues after a federal appeals court on Monday rejected their claim of immunity.

Harrell said the department is redoubling its efforts to comply more forthrightly with public record requests.

"We should have done a better job," he said. "We recognize that better records management technology is needed. The department has made clear to the chief lawyers in each region that they must ensure full compliance. ... We know the situation needs to be fixed."

The general counsel specifically faults department attorneys Roger Williams and Robin Whipple-Hunter, both of the Jacksonville office. The report says they knew or should have known of the record problems in 2004, when the children's lawyers first requested files.

"Yet Mr. Williams and Ms. Whipple-Hunter failed to make inquiry which would have revealed such practices and afforded the department an opportunity to correct them," the report says. It says they should have looked beyond "where records were supposed to be" in order to comply.

Williams was out of the office and couldn't be reached Tuesday, but Whipple-Hunter said the agency's Jacksonville legal office is taking the report "very seriously." She said improvements are being made.

"We do the very best we can in this office to comply with records requests," she said. "We get several hundred a year, and this was a difficult case."

But Jacksonville attorney Brian Cabrey, who represents the three Nassau County victims, said "intentional or not, records have been kept from us and concealed from us." He said the situation is disappointing in light of statements by Crist and the Department of Children and Families secretaries he's appointed about openness and transparency in government.

"Certainly the conduct in the Northeast Florida region has not matched the rhetoric," said Cabrey, vice president of the advocacy group Florida's Children First. "It was tacitly sanctioned by standing behind these people and not questioning them."

Cabrey said he is hopeful the report will be the foundation for statewide reforms in the agency.

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Postby Marina » Wed Dec 31, 2008 4:58 pm ... Id=3278141

Posted: Monday, 29 December 2008 4:37PM

Report: Secrecy Breached at NY Abuse Hot Line

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- New York Inspector General Joseph Fisch says the state's child abuse hot line lacks sufficient safeguards to protect the identities of callers, also noting it took five months to have a record erased after an investigation found no abuse.

In a 33-page report, the inspector general says a Suffolk County man, trying to find out who reported him, obtained a confidential list of hot line callers from Verizon by claiming to be a state employee.

Fisch also cites improper retention of ``expunged'' records in 67 cases, which the Office of Children and Family Services deleted after receiving his preliminary findings.

A call to OCFS, which oversees the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment, was not immediately returned.

TM & Copyright 2008 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO & EYE Logo TM & Copyright 2008 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. TheAssociated Press contributed to this report.

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Postby Marina » Wed Dec 31, 2008 5:28 pm ... broken.php

The "My State E-Mail Address is Broken" Scam

Newsday has a story on the record-keeping and security troubles at the NY State Office of Children and Family Services. A report from the State Inspector General offered this example: An Oakdale man, along with a teenage daughter, had been accused of abusing a younger daughter. The charges were unsubstantiated, but, according to the report, he contacted Verizon, claiming he was a state employee and asked to see the log of calls to the abuse hotline. "The [Verizon] employee sent the phone numbers to the man's AOL e-mail address because, she told state investigators, he told her his New York State e-mail address was 'broken.'" The report adds that the man "demanded cash from state officials in return for destroying the phone records." The man said he never pretended to be a state employee, adding, "It wasn't extortion. I said I'd like to have some kind of settlement for libeling and slandering our family's name."

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Postby Marina » Wed Feb 25, 2009 4:46 pm

Kristi Tedesco reports

New law opens CPS cases to public

A proposed new law in the state legislature is aimed at increasing the transparency of the juvenile courts in cases related to Child Protective Services. The law, which we are calling the Christopher McIntyre law, will make the court documents for any CPS case involving a fatality or near fatality publically accessible.

This issue first came to light in 2007, when the bodies of Ariana and Tyler Payne were discovered by investigators in a storage facility. Both children and their parents had been investigated by CPS, but their efforts failed to prevent the deaths of the two children. The question remained, did CPS do everything they could to prevent the deaths?

The answer would be located in the CPS records and the court documents, but both were kept secret until last year. In 2008, our Kristi's Kids investigations into the Payne children and other cases prompted half a dozen laws to be passed which opened up the CPS case files to the public and media. Yet still, the court documents were confidential.

State Senator Jonathan Paton proposes this new bill to change that, and force the files open so that the public can see the real stories.

In November this issue came up again, with the case of Christopher McIntyre. A Pima County juvenile judge closed his CPS case when he ran away, despite an urgent request from his CPS case manager to leave the case open. Thirteen months later, Christopher was shot to death in the very home he was removed from. A relative was accused of pulling the trigger.

Judge Virginia Kelly closed Christopher's case, but her reasoning is unknown, because the courts are legally unable to release the transcript.

Senator Paton tells us, "We have not been able to get the full accounting of everything that happened. This bill would give the public a real idea of what really happened with some of these fatalities, these kids that died, and I think that's going to protect kids in the future."

"It's going to allow everyone to see what's really going on behind the scenes and what happened in court. [It will] make sure the court is accountable just like CPS is," says Paton. "When you're dealing with a child who's died, who are you really protecting? You're not protecting that child. You're protecting a system that maybe made some terrible mistakes."

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Postby Marina » Sat Apr 25, 2009 12:54 pm

Wyo. court sides with newspaper in records case

By The Associated Press

CASPER, Wyo. — A District Court judge in Casper has ruled that a Circuit Court policy of denying public access to files in child-endangerment cases is contrary to Wyoming's public-records law.

The ruling by Judge Scott Skavdahl comes in a lawsuit filed by the Casper Star-Tribune. The newspaper was denied access to court documents in a child-endangerment case.

The case involved the boating death of an 11-year-old boy and was before Circuit Judge Michael Huber.

An attorney for the Star-Tribune, Bruce Moats, says the ruling means the court can continue to withhold the names of victims when charges are of a sexual nature. Moats also says information likely to identify a victim will be withheld, but entire case files won't be closed automatically.

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