Tag: texas

cps
Former Case Worker: Texas Foster Care Crisis Is Getting Worse

 Grace Reader, 21 hrs ago

Read original article here.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As the pandemic continues to drag on, a former case worker says the already widely publicized foster care crisis in Texas is only getting worse.

“We have so many children in care, it might be due to the pandemic, there’s a lot of stress on families,” Mayra Butler, a former case worker in District 7, which houses Austin, said. Butler is now the chief executive officer for Homes in Harmony . “We have seen a rise in which there’s more drug usage on the biological parents.”

In July, national officials announced that overdose deaths went up in 2020 by roughly 30%. A record 93,000 people died of an overdose in the United States last year.

Butler also says they’ve seen a spike of kids coming into the foster care system as schools have reopened over the past couple of months.

In the state of Texas, as is the case in almost all states, teachers and school employees are considered mandatory reporters, which means they are legally required to report suspicions of abuse and neglect . They can be charged for not doing so.

“Now that the children are coming back and reporting to teachers of things that might have happened to them of abuse, neglect…so now they’re starting to share with teachers and so that’s where the rise comes in and there’s an overload of children in the DFPS offices,” Butler said.

Mandatory reporters

Even though DFPS says the total number of reports of abuse or neglect have not been significantly higher this year than they have previously around this time, there has been a shift in who is making those reports.

In 2018, more than 66,100 reports of neglect or abuse were made by schools in Texas , that was followed by more than 56,600 made by law enforcement. The numbers were similar in 2019.

In 2020, though, reports made by law enforcement outpaced reports made by schools. There were roughly 20,000 less reports made statewide by school officials.

Foster care failures in Texas, the latest

According to a report released last month by a group of independent court monitors overseeing a federal lawsuit against the state, 501 children spent at least one night in an unlicensed placement in the first half of this year alone.

Some children spent more than 100 consecutive nights without a “proper” placement. The report found that 86% of these children were teenagers, and many of them require intense or specialized care, due to serious mental health needs or past trauma, that they likely weren’t receiving.

The report also noted Texas has lost more than 1,600 foster beds since January 2020. DFPS officials have continually pointed to this loss of foster beds and treatment center closures as their reason for lacking placements for high-needs children.

“There is a dire need for a lot of foster homes, all over the state of Texas,” Butler said.

‘We do need our community to be more involved’

Seeing the desperate need for foster families in Texas, Butler, and a foster family that Butler knows from case work, opened their own foster and adoption agency out of Laredo. It also serves District 7, which houses Austin. They were officially contracted with the state in April of this year.

What they really need right now, Butler says, is for people to step up and open their homes to these kids.

“There is a great need. We do have constant emergency placements needed and children that are waiting in the office to be placed, especially teenagers,” Butler said.

A catastrophe’: More than 200 kids sleeping in CPS offices as need for foster care intensifies

“If you can provide a home that is safe, if you can provide love that is genuine, and just want to help a child in need, you’re highly qualified,” Butler said.

You can find the foster parent application for Homes in Harmony here .

arrests, news
Plano podiatrist arrested on possession of child pornography charge | wfaa.com

Click here to view original article.148c6f41-c58e-4a2c-bb8c-0a9cc72bb303_360x203Photo Credit:

CollinC CountyJail Roster

The warrant lays out an investigation that started after an incident at his home this summer. There is no mention of any allegations at his workplace

A Plano podiatrist has been arrested on a charge of possession of child pornography, police records show.

Steven Berkey, 66, was arrested on the felony charge Nov. 4 by Collin County deputies.

Plano police started investigating Berkey after a juvenile reported in June an incident at Berkey’s house.

Officers responded to a report that a juvenile visitor was being secretly recorded inside a bathroom at Berkey’s home, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

While officers interviewed people at the house, they noticed a Nest camera hidden on a bookshelf in a bedroom pointing toward the bathroom where the victim had been. There was tape covering a light on the camera “to make it more inconspicuous,” the warrant says.

Berkey denied knowing the camera was there, records show.

The girl who visited the house told investigators she had seen Berkey looking at pornography on his laptop. She said the images appeared to be of teenage girls, the warrant says.

Investigators obtained a search warrant for devices used by Berkey, including phones, tablets and computers. The affidavit said “evidence of child exploitation material” was found during the search of the devices.

Police records describe three images found in Berkey’s possession, including pornographic photos of children under the age of 12.

A search warrant was also executed at the medical office. Plano police said there is no evidence that any crime occurred at Berkey’s medical offices or that any patients were victims.

An employee at the podiatrist office where Berkey once worked said the business is under new ownership and that Berkey no longer works there.

WFAA has reached out to Berkey for comment but has not been able to contact him.

Jail records show Berkey was released on bond Nov. 5.

child custody, cps
Are you dealing with CPS or a Child Custody Case? Help is Available!

During this holiday season, It’s Almost Tuesday wishes the best in all things for children and their families.

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We wish there were no bad foster homes.

We wish CPS had no over zealous case workers.

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We wish couples stayed happily married with no divorces.

We wish there was no such thing as parental alienation syndrome or parental kidnapping.

Custody-Battle

We wish for the end of alot of bad things, but there is a reality that wishes can’t erase.

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If you are facing CPS, or a divorce and children are involved there IS HELP AVAILABLE.

Do you know someone in a custody dispute?

What a better gift to give a loved one who is facing a child custody case or court battle but peace of mind?

We want to help you find the answers that you need to fight for your rights and your kids and succeed.

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Win in court.
Check out our new page with a library of books and guides on just about any topics you could think of.

Tell your friends.

The kids who need it the most will thank you one day.

It’s our wish that we would all be nice to each other in every way possible, but if you have no choice and nice isn’t an option, be ready.
GET HELP NOW!

cps
A Tragic Reminder That Time Is Precious

The story below is a tragic reminder that when you love someone -show them – your time with them is never guaranteed.

We are not in charge.

As parents we are, or try to be, mindful of taking precautions against the risks in this world that may harm our children. Covering electrical outlets, holding hands while crossing the street, installing gates around pools, etc.

However, this case reminds us, that we cannot prevent everything from potentially harming our child.

There are just some things that you don’t think about until too late. I mean, I never worried about sending my kids to school and that they might never vine home after choking on a pushpin of all things.

It just goes to show ya that time is precious.

To the suffering family: Godspeed, and may you find peace somehow! It’s Almost Tuesday.

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After a Frisco Child’s Death, Her Family Wants Answers and Changes from Frisco ISD
[Updated]
Tues, May 27, 2014 at 10:22 AM
By Eric Nicholson
Source: Dallas Observer

No one — not her teacher, not her mom, not the school nurse, not the paramedics — could initially explain why Meaghan Levy, an otherwise healthy kindergartener at Frisco’s Corbell Elementary, suddenly collapsed to the floor as her class walked to the library on the morning of December 12. She had no history of medical problems and no known allergies.

The night before was normal — a trip to the grocery store with her mom and siblings, a dinner of turkey tacos, a run-through of Finding Nemo before bed — as was the morning.

She was in good spirits when she was dropped off at school in her white shirt and jean jacket, and she was typically cheerful as her class set out for the library an hour-and-a-half later.

When Fox 4 reported on the death the next week, they could say for certain only that Meaghan “became ill.”.

The actual cause of death was suggested by X-rays doctors at Children’s Medical Center at Legacy as they frantically tried to save Meaghan’s life, and confirmed a month later by the Collin County Medical Examiner: asphyxiation by pushpin.

For Meaghan’s mother, Nicole Kennedy, and her aunt, Erika Kennedy, the past five months have eroded some of the initial shock of losing a child 11 days before her 6th birthday. But they’ve done little to ease their despair.

Though Frisco ISD and Frisco police have closed their respective investigations and ruled the death an accident, the Kennedy sisters have questions:

Why didn’t Meaghan’s teacher have CPR training?

Why did the oxygen bottle pumping air into her lungs while paramedics were en route malfunction, sending the school nurse to the hospital?

Why were pushpins allowed within a kindergartener’s reach in the first place?

In an emailed response to questions posed by Unfair Park, Frisco ISD spokeswoman Shana Wortham said no employees have been disciplined and no policy changes have been made in the wake of Meaghan’s death.

Teachers are still encouraged, but not required, to take CPR training as part of their professional development regimen, and no move has been made to bar pushpins from Frisco ISD kindergarten classes.

“The hearts of the staff and students at the campus and the District continue to go out to the family,” Wortham wrote. “It was a tragic loss for all those who knew and loved her.”

Tragic particularly because it was avoidable. Pushpin deaths seem to be relatively rare, but they’re hardly unheard of.

Within two months of each other in 2011, children in Louisville, Kentucky and Oceanside, California choked to death on pushpins, their plastic bases just the right size to lodge in a young child’s trachea.

Even when they’re fully inhaled, they pose a painful challenge, the sharp point making them a nightmare to remove from the lungs.

Even after Meaghan began choking on the pushpin, there appears to be room for a quicker, more effective response.

According to a Frisco PD incident report, the first indication that something was wrong came when Meaghan approached her teacher in the hallway with her hands to her throat, appearing as if she couldn’t breath.(A video camera in the hallway captured Meaghan choking from afar, but does not show when or how she obtained the pushpin.)

The teacher’s response was to lead the girl to the nurse’s office, but Meaghan collapsed before they reached the door. Two parent volunteers happened to be standing nearby and helped carry Meaghan into the nurse’s office, by which time her face was turning blue. One of the volunteers performed the Heimlich maneuver — unsuccessfully, he told police. The nurse began CPR.

During the course of CPR, the nurse began to use one of the portable medical emergency oxygen units Frisco ISD provides at all its campuses. As she delivered the oxygen, the tank malfunctioned, spraying the nurse with a chemical — a caustic substance similar to soda ash — and sending her to the hospital.

Something similar happened in September when the school nurse at Frisco’s Lone Star High School attempted to administer oxygen to a student. The tank exploded, according to media reports, spraying the nurse, a student, three firefighters, and an assistant principal with the chemical and sending them to the hospital.

Wortham says the oxygen units are designed, manufactured and distributed by Frisco-based Oxysure.

“The portable oxygen is another tool available to our personnel to use in a medical situation until paramedics arrive,” she writes. “The District usually also has AEDs at every facility.”

Wortham did not address why the unit malfunctioned, when it was last inspected, or whether the twin cases of malfunctioning oxygen tanks has prompted the district to enact any changes.

She prefaced her responses with a note that
“the District’s comments are limited since we are unsure of legal action being considered.”

Oxysure said in a statement that its product worked properly in Meaghan’s case and in others.
“The cause of this tragedy appears to the be accidental swallowing of a pushpin and is unrelated to our product,” the company said. “We are unclear as to why we are being brought into it.”
FISD, the statement continues, “has hundreds of our units, and has successfully used the product in hundreds of saves since 2008.”

The media reports last fall were inaccurate.

The Oxysure unit is not a “tank” and is not “compressed.” It’s easy to confuse our product with traditional oxygen units, since that’s closer to the public’s frame of reference.

Our product is break-through, safe, accessible, life-safing technology and we work hard every day to re-frame the mindset around supplemental oxygen. Our job is to re-educate the public around this product since it’s breakthrough technology.

Bottom line is, OxySure units contain inert powders that, when deployed, provide medically safe and pure oxygen. OxySure saves lives.

Frisco ISD would have been responsible for inspecting the units, the company said.

Paramedics arrived soon after the oxygen tank malfunctioned and took Meaghan to the hospital.
After doctors discovered the pushpin, they decided she needed to be airlifted to the Children’s Medical Center of Dallas. Before they could load her on the helicopter, however, her condition worsened.

“After several minutes of intense care,” the police report says, “the lead doctor came into the hallway and notified the family that Meaghan had died.”

It’s not clear from the police report or autopsy that a properly functioning oxygen tank or a teacher trained to provide CPR would have saved Meaghan. But those are big “what ifs” — too big, say the Kennedy sisters.

They hope Meaghan’s death can still prompt changes at Frisco ISD: a ban on pushpins; mandatory CPR training for teachers; a better system to ensure the emergency medical equipment is in proper working order.

As much as anything, they want to raise awareness: Beware of kids and pushpins.

This post has been updated with a response from Oxysure.

© 2014 Dallas Observer, LLC. All rights reserved.

aging out, cps
Dallas County Foster Kids Age Out to Troubled Lives…
 Its Almost Tuesday wants us all to remember, stories like these are about the children who live to age-out.  Many do not. Many commit suicide just prior to their 18th birthday. Those are the ones that the system needs to focus on, how that sort of tragedy could have been prevented.
Maybe listening to the ones that live to age-out can give us the answer to saving the next suicide victim-to-be.

After aging out of foster system, some teens’ troubles are just beginning

|by Source of article: JANET ST. JAMES,  WFAA 

Posted on September 5, 2013 at 10:31 PM                                                    Updated Friday, Sep 6 at 4:55 PM

DALLAS — When many high school students are fighting for Independence, Seth Miller seemingly has it all.

He wears what he wants, eats when he wants to, has complete Independence, and an apartment of his own.

But Seth would trade it in a second for one thing.

“One family,” he said. “Even if I had to live in a box — family.”

When Seth was a baby, he was adopted into a large family. The adoption lasted until he was seven, when abuse allegations split up the children.

He remembers what his adoptive mother told him on his last afternoon at home.

“‘You’re just going to spend the night, but you’ll be back tomorrow,'” Seth recalled. “Sometimes I question why she didn’t tell me the truth.”

In the coming years, Seth would live with five other foster families, never feeling part of any of them. Neglect was part of his foster life, he says. Distrust of people and anger at the world grew.

“You were just a number,” Seth said stoically.

At 18, Seth became a legal adult and aged out of the foster care system. He left his last foster family in an attempt to find happiness.

About 1,500 Texas teens age out of the foster care system annually, with few resources to help them survive the adult world. Many struggle with unemployment and crime. Nearly half, according to some research, become homeless.

A few weeks ago, Seth was living in his car.

“I remember one night, I did fall asleep and woke up the next morning and I was like this,” Seth said, leaning on his steering wheel, “and my neck kind of hurt. I never imagined living like that.”

“He called and told me he was homeless,” said Virginia Barrett, a Court Appointed Special Advocate, or CASA.

Unlike state case workers, CASA’s are volunteers charged with protecting the best interests of a single child. There are not enough CASA volunteers for every foster child in North Texas.

Barrett has been Seth’s CASA since he was seven. When the state assistance stopped, this volunteer has kept helping the angry, abandoned young man.

She gathered donations and helped Seth rent an apartment so he could finish his senior year of high school.

“My goal is to make it better,” Barrett said. “That’s what we’re working on.”

She’s trying to get Seth into a supervised independent living program to help him meet his monthly financial needs so he can concentrate on graduating.

Seth has biological siblings he has never met, and never knew existed until a few months ago. For now, Virginia is his only family.

Seth also works full-time at McDonalds. He is determined he will not fail himself.

He believes the system, overloaded with too many foster children, too many unqualified foster families, and too few case workers, let him down.

“I know I’m tough because I went through a lot,” he said. “And I’m going to make it. Because I have to. That’s all I have. That’s the only choice I have.”

Seth would like people to take notice of what he calls a broken system, to protect other vulnerable children who grow up in foster care.

He hopes other foster teens will see him now and know they are a number.

Number one.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

WFAA Reader Comments:

cps
The Comptroller’s Health Care Claims Study – Drugging Foster Children

(CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD & LISTEN TO A FOSTER CHILD DESCRIBE, TO HIS MOTHER, THE EFFECTS OF PSYCHOTROPIC MEDICATIONS HE WAS GIVEN IN FOSTER CARE BY MISTAKE IN COLLIN COUNTY TEXAS.)

Its Almost Tuesday is determined to keep thE  PROBLEM OF CPS DRUGGING FOSTER CHILDREN alive AND TALKED ABOUT!

IN THAT REGARD, please READ & share THE IMPORTANT INFORMATION  IN THIS ARTICLE with others & demand accountability FROM OUR GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS!

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Special Report of Foster Children has revealed many failures and tragedies – by connecting the dots between the state’s foster children and their Medicaid medical and prescription drug claims. The picture is bleak, and rooted in profound human suffering. It represents nothing less than a failure of the entire Texas foster care system.

Voluntary medication parameters and guidelines have been created and the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) and its allied agencies have issued a request for proposals (RFP) “to contract with a single Managed Care Organization (MCO) to develop a statewide Comprehensive Health Care Model for Foster Care.” But much more needs to be done. (See Appendix I for a history of psychotropic medications and foster children and Appendix III for a comparison of fiscal 2004 and 2005 foster care psychotropic prescriptions.)

The complex nature of the foster care system generates many opportunities for fi ngerpointing, but ultimately the responsibility must lie at the top, with the government agencies that allowed this situation to develop.

While not all foster care providers provide optimum care and treatment, HHSC and the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) must be held accountable. They place the children and monitor them—or fail to—and they pay the medical bills.

One of the biggest differences between foster children and other children is that foster children often do not have an active and engaged guardian or caregiver in their lives like other children.

While DFPS has a policy that requires foster care caseworkers to visit children on their caseloads at least once a month and visit them at their places of residence at least every three months – in reality this does not always happen. Caseworkers rely on foster care providers or foster parents to ensure that children in their daily care are doing well and following their treatment regiment. In many cases this system works well and foster children receive the service they need.

However, because the foster care population moves from place to place with frequency there is often no single person on a daily basis that watches out for the well being of the child. In addition, many foster children have very complex emotional and physical needs.

Foster children are often prescribed numerous psychotropic medications.

These powerful medications sometimes carry warnings from the U. S. Food and Drug Administration regarding their adverse effects that can be serious or even life threatening. Some foster children receive combinations of psychotropic medications, which can then create other side effects. Foster parents often do not have the training or expertise to be able to monitor these children.

Most children have biological parents or guardians, who know exactly what types of medical treatments, prescriptions, etc. their children have had. In fact, most biological parents or guardians know who their children’s doctors are and how to reach them. However, in many instances foster care providers do not know a child’s medical history or physician because they have not received any of the child’s medical records.

In addition, foster care providers don’t normally know right away what to expect from a foster child, and in many cases do not have a chance to care for children for prolonged periods of time because they are moved so frequently. (As documented in the Comptroller’s Forgotten Children report.)

To analyze the extensive amount of Medicaid prescription data, the Comptroller called on two internationally recognized and extensively published experts: Julie Magno Zito, Ph.D., a professor of pharmacy at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy; and Dr. Daniel J. Safer, a psychiatrist and professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

These authorities guided the review team in examining and understanding these records, and in making recommendations for improved care.

This external review produced a number of key findings:

Key Points of The Zito/Safer External Review include:

• Most prescribed psychotropic medications for foster children are “off-label”, which means they are not FDA approved for this population or for a particular indication. Consequently, pertinent safety and efficacy information on medications is very limited for this age group.

Increasing the number of concomitant medications increases the risks of adverse drug events.

Random assignment, evidence-based, controlled, clinical trial data on psychotropic medications prescribed concomitantly for youth are essentially non-existent.

MEDICAL CONCERNS

This report reveals a number of significant medical concerns within the state’s foster care system.

LACK OF MEDICAL HISTORIES

DFPS still does not provide its foster children with a “medical passport” explaining their medical history, including diagnoses and prescriptions although the passport is required by law.

Instead, foster children often move from one placement to another, seeing new physicians or counselors who have little or no knowledge of their past medical histories. A medical passport would help provide more consistent care for these children.

In September 2006, DFPS stated that it “is working with HHSC on the development of the health passport, scheduled to be implemented September 2007”— more than three years after the Comptroller’s first published recommendation. Psychiatric Hospitalizations DFPS has no rules, guidelines or monitoring procedures concerning the psychiatric hospitalization of foster children.

In fiscal 2004, 1,663 Texas foster children were hospitalized for psychiatric care for a total of 33,712 days, at a cost of $16 million based on daily rates of more than $500 per day.

DFPS has no rules, guidelines or monitoring procedures concerning the psychiatric hospitalization of foster children.

More than 400 foster children spent than a month each in psychiatric facilities in fiscal 2004.

Some of these foster children were “dumped” into psychiatric hospitals, by foster parents who decided that they could not deal with the child’s behavior.

DFPS caseworkers often left foster children in such facilities long after they were authorized for release.

Medically Fragile Children

The Comptroller’s office estimates that about 1,600 “medically fragile” children were in Texas foster care in fiscal 2004. These children have serious and continuing medical conditions requiring specialized care and treatment. About 49 percent of them were four years old or younger.

Many of these children were in “basic” service-level homes, because DFPS places more emphasis on behavioral conditions than on physical conditions and needs.

HIV and AIDS

DFPS has been particularly negligent in caring for foster children with fatal and incurable human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). These children are not receiving consistent care and counseling.

Some have been enrolled in clinical trials and did not have advocates appointed for them.

  • At least one foster facility that cared primarily for children with HIV and AIDS was closed due to poor living conditions and substandard care.
  • Twenty-six Texas foster children received at least one HIV medication and had at least one outpatient HIV procedure in fiscal 2004.
  • More than 15 had at least one outpatient procedure with an HIV-related diagnosis code, but did not receive any HIV medications—a peculiar and disturbing pattern.

Many of these children were categorized at the lowest, basic service level.

In fiscal 2004, 63 foster children were raped while in care; of these, only 16 received HIV tests.

Meaning that 75 percent of those raped were not tested for HIV following the rape, as required by law.

One foster child with HIV who was also medically fragile had more than 600 outpatient claims and more than 200 prescription drug claims in fiscal 2004.

This child lived in rural Texas, in a 1,300 square-foot mobile home with four other foster children, one of whom also was medically fragile. A review of the DFPS records indicated that this small home was not licensed to care for more than four children.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Some Texas foster children are suffering from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Many are sexually active or were sexually abused while in care, while others come into care with the disease. In fiscal 2004, more than 200 foster children were diagnosed with STDs.

Most of them were teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19. DFPS should recognize this problem and actively address it through education, testing and appropriate treatment.

The review team found irregularities in prescribing practices and counseling delivered to foster children with STDs; females in foster care were six times more likely to be diagnosed with a STD than males.

Pregnant Foster Children

In fiscal 2004, 142 foster children delivered babies.

The DFPS guidelines regarding birth control, pregnancy and abortion are vague and are not given to providers and foster parents.

Some pregnant foster teens received powerful psychotropic medications that are not recommended for use in pregnant women.

And many were moved repeatedly throughout their pregnancies, because many residential treatment centers and foster homes will not take them.

Texas has few specialty maternity homes that can offer services to these teens. Foster teens and their new babies, moreover, often were not placed in the same home in a timely manner following their discharge from the hospital.

Contraceptives and Foster Children

In fiscal 2004, Medicaid spent $176,814 on more than 4,300 birth control prescriptions for more than a thousand Texas foster children.

Medical claims for these children suggest that not all sexually active foster children receiving these medications were given their recommended yearly gynecology examinations.

A 15-year-old mentally retarded foster child received eight different prescriptions for birth control pills in fiscal 2004, but had no claims for a gynecological examination.

And, a 17-year-old foster child received six different prescriptions for birth control patches in fiscal 2004, but had no claims for a pap smear or gynecological exam. This child was diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease early in fiscal 2004.

Injuries and Deaths

In fiscal 2004, 46 Texas foster children died while in care.

DFPS determined that five of these deaths resulted from abuse and neglect, but 15 cases were left “open” and abuse and neglect were not ruled out.

HOW MANY DEATHS OCCURRED THAT SAME YEAR BY ABUSE AND NEGLECT FROM NATURAL PARENTS IN TEXAS? JUST CURIOUS – IF ANYONE HAS THAT DATA?

Many other foster children were taken to emergency rooms or hospitals with very severe injuries and medical conditions.

Medicinal Poisonings

More than 150 foster children were poisoned by medication in fiscal 2004, and not all of these cases were investigated by DFPS.

Some foster children remained in the same foster homes after they survived the poisoning.

DFPS and HHSC should ensure that every poisoning from medication is investigated.

The DFPS hotline received a report that a nine-year-old child was being overmedicated, but the agency did not investigate the case.

Foster Children and Clinical Trials.

It was revealed in May 2005 that HIV positive Texas foster children had been enrolled in experimental clinical drug trials.

This news sparked nationwide coverage of the topic, since the children were being exposed to potentially serious and even lethal side effects of the trial drugs.

Because of the confidential nature of clinical trials, it is not possible to find out details regarding Texas foster children enrolled in such studies, but some questionable indicators were uncovered – such as medications were billed with no record of medication payment and foster children that are HIV positive with no Medicaid billings for medications.

Section 6544 of the DFPS Handbook states:

…no HIV infected child in DFPS conservatorship may participate in any experimental drug therapy… unless the child or child’s caregiver first secures the written approval of the child’s physician or program director of the child’s conservatorship unit.

The review team asked DFPS:

How many foster children participated in any experimental drug therapy or clinical trials from fiscal 2004 to 2006, and how such participation is reported or tracked and if there is detail by disease or condition?

The agency responded as follows:

There are currently no clinical trials for HIV, so no children in foster care were enrolled in this type of trial between FY 2004 and FY 2006. A few children in foster care may be enrolled in other clinical trials.

This response is vague and it is clear DFPS either does not know how many foster children are in clinical trials—or chooses not to tell.

(NOTE: THEY CHOOSE NOT TO TELL.)

According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health website in September 2006, there were 1,928 clinical trials under way in Texas, including several related to HIV.

Executive Summary &

Systemic Recommendations

More than 150 foster children were poisoned by medication in fiscal 2004, and not all of these cases were investigated by DFPS.

The Medications

In fiscal 2004, Texas Medicaid spent $30 million for powerful, expensive psychotropic prescriptions for Texas foster children. Many of these children received multiple medications. Psychotropic medications can have very serious side-effects and their use should be strictly monitored; a large number of them are not approved for use in children or adolescents.

The review team found that Texas foster children receive more psychotropic medications than their counterparts in mid- Atlantic and Midwestern states.

DSHS has set voluntary parameters for the use of psychotropics by foster children. These guidelines were released in February 2005 and were supposed to be revised annually. A committee met in August 2006 to discuss the revision; the first revised parameters were scheduled for release in October 2006.

Key concerns identified by this review include:

  • Costly Psychotropic Medications In fiscal 2004, psychotropic drugs accounted for more than 76 percent of the cost of all medications prescribed to foster children, which totaled $39 million for all medications.
  • All other drug categories, including a wide variety of drugs from antibiotics to cancer medications, accounted for just over 23 percent of the total or $9.2 million.
  • Of all drugs prescribed to children in foster care, three psychotropic drug classes, antidepressants, antipsychotics and stimulants— were the most frequently prescribed.
  • In fiscal 2004, Texas Medicaid spent more money on antipsychotic drugs for foster children, more than $14.9 million or 38 percent of the total, than on any other class of drugs.
  • The average cost per prescription for psychotropic drugs was $114.69. The average for all other drugs, by contrast, was $52.17 per prescription.
  • Antipsychotics: In fiscal 2004, Texas Medicaid spent nearly $15 million on 65,469 anti-psychotic prescriptions for Texas foster children.

NOTE: BIG PROFIT FOR DRUG COMPANIES

CPS takes children from homes, usually on unsubstantiated referrals of abuse or neglect.  They drug the children, test drugs that are not FDA approved, bill the state-funded (tax payers) Medicaid Program, offer kickbacks to pharmaceutical companies & doctors, and funnel the funds amongst themselves at the expense of families and children. – MILLION AND MILLIONS OF DOLLARS.  

WHEN THE OFFICIALS GET CAUGHT FOR MEDICAID FRAUD, the Texas Government  REFUNDS THE MONEY BACK TO MEDICAID

– but cannot prosecute anyone for the Medicaid Fraud because of a COMPUTER GLITCH THAT DESTROYED THE EVIDENCE NECESSARY TO PROSECUTE ANYONE!

What about the foster children who were drugged? What about the trauma induced in the parents who saw their children drugged at visits?

What has been done for these children? NOTHING.

Can Governor Rick Perry tell the children and their parents what will be done to compensate them for their ruined lives?

These very powerful and expensive medications were prescribed despite a lack of studies demonstrating their safety and efficacy in children.

There are questions regarding the long-term safety of these medications; documented serious side-effects include menstrual irregularities, gynecomastia, galactorrhea, possible pituitary tumors, hyperglycemia, type 2 diabetes and liver function abnormalities.

Close monitoring of these medications by physicians is essential; Texas foster children are not receiving this attention.

In addition, more than 400 foster children were prescribed antidyskinetics drugs to control side effects from antipsychotics.

Side effects from antipsychotics include tremors, tics, dystonia, dyskinesia and tardive dyskinesia.

Stimulant Prescription Drugs:

  • In fiscal 2004, Texas Medicaid spent $4.5 million on 45,318 stimulant prescriptions for more than 6,500 Texas foster children.

Nearly all of these medications are Schedule II controlled substances, due to their high potential for abuse and severe psychological or physical dependence.

More than a quarter of all male foster children and nearly 15 percent of female foster children received prescriptions for stimulants in fiscal 2004; nearly 200 of these children were aged four or younger.

In addition, some foster children received many questionable high-cost, high-dose prescriptions.

One prescription for a foster child was written for 360 pills of the stimulant Adderall XR 30mg—for a 30-day supply. (note : that’s 12 pills a day!!!)   Adderall XR is an extended-release medication meant to be taken only once daily. 

NOTE: WAS ANYONE ARRESTED FOR MEDICAL NEGLECT?

WHO WAS HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR POISONING THAT CHILD?? 

WHAT KIND OF DOCTOR OR FOSTER PARENT WOULD DISPENSE A DOSE LIKE THAT TO A CHILD?

DID THEY DISPENSE IT TO THE CHILD?

DID THEY ONLY DISPENSE THIS MEDICATION ON PAPER FOR THE PROFIT?

DID THIS CHILD OVERDOSE!!!????

 Its Almost Tuesday would like to know.

Anticonvulsants (Mood Stabilizers): accounted for more than 76 percent of the cost of all medications prescribed to foster children, which totaled $39 million for all medications. 􀃍

In fiscal 2004, Texas Medicaid spent nearly $4.8 million on nearly 43,000 mood stabilizer prescriptions for about 4,500 Texas foster children.

This included 133 children aged four and younger.

These medications are used to treat bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression; some also are also used to treat seizures and epilepsy.

NOTE: FOR A FOUR YEAR OLD OR YOUNGER???

HOW MANY FOUR YEAR OLD CHILDREN ARE BI-POLAR WITH ANXIETY DISORDERS?   

Trileptal and Topamax, which together accounted for about 38 percent of all mood stabilizer prescriptions, have no established efficacy for psychotropic use in either children or adults.

Antidepressants: In fiscal 2004, Texas foster children received more than 66,000 prescriptions for antidepressant medications, making this drug class the most commonly prescribed medication.

Antidepressant medications ranked fourth in the total cost of prescriptions for fiscal 2004, at $3.8 million.

In June 2003, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began to investigate the use of antidepressants to treat children and adolescents.

NOTE:  BEGAN TO INVESTIGATE??

PRESCRIBED MORE THAN 66,000 ANTIDEPRESSANTS BY THE NEXT FISCAL YEAR? AND THEY CLAIM THEY WERE NOT DOING CLINICAL TRIAL STUDIES?

THEY ARE USING FOSTER CHILDREN AS GUINEA PIGS!

In October 2004, the FDA ordered drug manufacturers to place a “black box” warning on all classes of antidepressants stating that they may increase the risk of suicidal behavior in children and adolescents.

NOTE: I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW HOW MANY CHILDREN IN FOSTER CARE COMMITTED OR ATTEMPTED SUICIDE AND WERE ON ANTI-DEPRESSANTS?

Anxiolytics (Anti-anxiety): In fiscal 2004, 688 foster children received 3,113 anti-anxiety prescriptions.

The largest subclass of these drugs, and the most widely prescribed, are the benzodiazepines.

NOTE: ONE OF THE LEGALLY PRESCRIBED DRUGS I WAS TAKING AND THE SAME CPS USED AS ONE OF THE REASONS FOR REMOVING MY CHILD INTO FOSTER CARE – WHERE THEY THEN PRESCRIBE THE SAME MEDICATIONS…?

These drugs have been used with success to treat anxiety, but their use is limited because they have sedating side effects and may be habit-forming when taken for a long time or in high doses.

Anxiolytics are regulated under Schedule IV, by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Hypnotic/Sedatives: In fiscal 2004, Medicaid spent more than $72,000 on nearly 2,500 hypnotic/sedative prescriptions for about 1,000 Texas foster children, including 232 children aged four and younger.

These medications are used to treat anxiety or sleep disorders. They can cause dependency in just a few days and tolerance in a few weeks.

Psychotropic Use by the Very Young

In fiscal 2004, 686 foster children aged four and under received more than 4,500 prescriptions for psychotropic medications,

NOTE: THATS AN AVERAGE OF 7 PRESCRIPTIONS PER CHILD UNDER THE AGE OF FOUR the majority of which are not approved by the FDA for use in children.

A two year-old foster child with no diagnoses indicating psychosis received seven prescriptions for Risperdal, a powerful antipsychotic, totaling more than $700.

NOTE: TWO YEARS OLD –  AND THESE PEOPLE ARE NOT JAILED, ARRESTED, OR HUNG ON A STAKE???

A TWO YEAR OLD BABY!!!???

Controlled Substances

In fiscal 2004, Medicaid spent $4.6 million on more than 53,000 prescriptions for controlled substances for more than 9,600 Texas foster children.  

NOTE: HOW MANY OF THESE VERY SAME FOSTER CHILDREN WERE REMOVED FROM THEIR HOMES FOR PARENTS HAVING SUBSTANCE ABUSE ISSUES? 

FURTHER – HOW MANY OF THOSE CHILDREN REMOVED FOR PARENTS HAVING SUBSTANCE ABUSE ISSUES DID NOT INCUR INJURIES OR ABUSE BUT WERE MERELY REMOVED DUE TO THE S.A.  ISSUES?

HOW MANY OF THOSE CHILDREN WERE THEN GIVEN CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES IN FOSTER CARE?

HOW MANY OF THOSE FOSTER CHILDREN WILL BECOME DRUG ADDICTS THEMSELVES AS A RESULT OF CPS FOSTER CARE DRUGGING THEM?

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has placed these substances on the controlled substances list because of their high potential for abuse.

More than 2,300 Texas foster children, including 871 children age four and younger, received more than 3,200 prescriptions for addictive narcotic syrups.

A total of 177 foster children received more than 1,100 prescriptions for phenobarbital.

NOTE: READ ABOUT PHENOBARBITAL ON WIKIPEDIA HERE

Long-term Risks and Polypharmacy

The Zito & Safer External Review notes that the widespread use of antipsychotics in children and adolescents raises particular concerns regarding long-term safety.

Serious questions exist regarding this issue, which involves documented, side effects.

Little is known about the long-term effects of early and prolonged exposure to psychotropic medications on the development of children’s brains.

These findings underline the importance of further research to determine the safety and efficacy of pediatric psychotropic drugs and polypharmacy.

The use of psychotropics in the Texas Medicaid population of children and adolescents tripled from 1996 to 2000.

A 2004 Texas study by the HHSC’s Office of the Inspector General revealed that foster children receive more psychotropic drugs on average than other Texas Medicaid children.

Psychotropic use by Texas pre-school-aged foster children was three times higher than among similar foster children in the Mid-Atlantic states. Instances of “polypharmacy,” the prescription of two or more psychotropics for one person—has increased rapidly as well.

Complex psychotropic drug therapy tends to result in ever-increasing combinations that tend to increase in continuously enrolled populations and present risks for long-term safety in developing youth.

Off -label Usage

Most psychotropic medications have not been studied extensively for efficacy and safety in children.

The National Institutes of Mental Health notes that about 80 percent of psychotropic drugs are not approved for use in children or adolescents.

Their use in this population is described as “off-label.” Yet the off-label use of these drugs in children is common.

Efficacy Questions

Many medications prescribed to Texas foster children have been shown to have no or minimal efficacy. Among antidepressants, for instance, FDA findings from clinical trials showed little or no efficacy from the use of escitaloram (Lexapro), paroxetine (Paxil) and venlafaxine (Effexor).

Yet prescription patterns among foster children appears to ignore such findings from clinical trials that show a lack of or minimal efficacy.

In fiscal 2004, Texas foster children received the following:

escitaloram (Lexapro): nearly 12,000 prescriptions totaling $763,000.

paroxetine (Paxil): more than 550 prescriptions totaling almost $50,000.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/AWr1GK7w1uE]

venlafaxine (Effexor): about 3,000 prescriptions totaling more than $300,000.

NOTE: EFFEXOR.COM STATES: 

Suicidality and Antidepressant Drugs Antidepressants increased the risk compared to placebo of suicidal thinking and behavior (suicidality) in children, teens, and young adults.

Depression and certain other psychiatric disorders are themselves associated with increases in the risk of suicide.

Patients of all ages who are started on antidepressant therapy should be monitored appropriately and observed closely for clinical worsening, suicidality, or unusual changes in behavior. 

EFFEXOR XR®(venlafaxine HCl) is not approved for use in children and teens.

Many anticonvulsant drugs are being used as mood stabilizers for Texas foster children, including oxcarbazepine and topirimate.

These drugs have been found to be ineffective for psychiatric purposes.

Nevertheless, they were widely prescribed to Texas foster children in fi scal 2004:

oxcarbazepine (Trileptal): nearly 13,000 prescriptions totaling $1.98 million.

topiramate (Topamax): more than 3,300 prescriptions totaling more than $500,000. Compound Drugs In fiscal 2004, 572 foster children received nearly 2,000 prescriptions for compound drugs.

The FDA is concerned that such drugs carry a risk of contamination and the efficacy and potency can be effected. Fraud and abuse can also be a factor in compound drug prescriptions.

Recommendations to improve the Texas Foster Care system that should be implemented immediately:

1. The Health and Human Services Commission, Office of Inspector General should fully investigate areas of concern and cases of interest identifi ed in this report.

2. DFPS should hire a full-time physician to serve as its medical director, to oversee the care, treatment and medications provided to Texas foster children. The medical director should evaluate medical care provided to foster children and report the results to the DSHS and HHSC annually. The medical director should establish an analysis team to assist with the evaluation. The team should consist of psychopharmacologists and child and adolescent psychiatrists from medical schools.

3. The newly created DFPS medical director should be responsible for ensuring that all foster care parents and facilities receive “medical passport” information within 48 hours of the foster child’s placement. The “passport” should be updated consistently and should document all medical treatments, prescriptions, psychological diagnoses and counseling to provide continuity of care.

4. DSHS should review this report and begin implementing its recommendations as soon as possible, including those from the external review by Zito/Safer.

5. DFPS, in coordination with DSHS and HHSC, should examine the best practices of successful foster care providers to develop and implement means to reduce the system’s reliance on psychotropic medications to treat foster children.

6. DFPS should establish strict rules regarding participation by foster children in any type of clinical trial. In addition, DFPS should track and monitor all foster children who are enrolled in clinical trials. All foster parents and providers should be made aware of the rules and the potential risks of clinical trials. Additional recommendations more specific to each problem are made in later chapters in this report.

Counseling

Some foster children receive counseling services, but not all do, and others do not receive consistent counseling.

According to the American Counseling Association, “Professional counselors help clients identify goals and potential solutions to problems which cause emotional turmoil; seek to improve communication and coping skills; strengthen self-esteem; and promote behavior change and optimal mental health. Counseling is a technique that can be used by individuals coping with a mental illness, recovering from a trauma, managing stress, or dealing with family issues.”

While some foster children suffer from severe mental illness, others have milder problems. The various options described below may help to reduce the number of psychotropic prescriptions prescribed to Texas foster children. Innovative Therapeutic Provider One Texas therapeutic foster care provider consciously uses a different approach to treat very troubled foster children, most of whom are classified by service level as specialized.

This facility employs intensive therapeutic intervention that focuses on teaching children appropriate ways to problem-solve and make healthy and positive choices in their lives.

In an interview regarding the usage of psychotropic medications, a staff member stated that children at this facility are held accountable for their actions and are taught to manage their behavior with as few psychotropic medications as possible.

HE (A STAFF MEMBER) ALSO SAID THAT SOME CHILDREN COME INTO THEIR PROGRAM SO HEAVILY MEDICATED THAT THEY ARE “DROOLING.’

An innovative therapeutic foster care provider has been successful in lowering the number of psychotropic medications given to foster children in its care.

Not all foster children who need counseling are receiving it on a regular basis. •

DFPS is not doing all it can to promote mentor-ship for foster children.

Since publication of the Comptroller’s Forgotten Children report in April 2004, the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) and the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) have been addressing psychotropic medication use by foster children.

DSHS has established medication parameters to help monitor and reduce the number of prescriptions.

Yet many psychotropic medications still are being prescribed to all ages of foster children. While medication may be beneficial in treating mental disorders, a “pill” cannot solve all of the emotional issues and problems foster children face while in care.

The Zito/Safer External Review states,

“poverty, social deprivation and unsafe environments do not necessarily require complex drug regimes.”

Often when foster children experience emotional problems they undergo psychiatric evaluations and are then taken to a physician, frequently a psychiatrist (but not always) who then prescribes one or more medications to help treat the problem.

While medication may be beneficial in treating mental disorders, a “pill” cannot solve all of the emotional issues and problems foster children face while in care.

A check of this provider’s Medicaid claims for foster children in its care showed that their usage of psychotropic medications decreased.

It is also important to analyze underlying causes that can affect mental health. Britain’s Mental Health Foundation has observed that,

“An integrated approach, recognizing the interplay of biological, psychological, social and environmental factors, is key to challenging the growing burden of mental ill-health in western nations.”2

Researchers are discovering how aspects of environment and social class can be associated with children’s poor health and behavior.3

Britain’s National Health Service has found that mental health problems are more common among people in poor living conditions, members of certain minority groups and the disabled.4

In Forgotten Children and its subsequent studies, the Comptroller’s office has found that Texas foster children often come from unhealthy living environments, and some remain in unstable and unsafe living conditions while in the foster care system. These include medically fragile children living in very small homes with many children, in mobile homes and in remote, isolated areas of the state.

Administrators at psychiatric hospitals told the review team that some children they treat have refused to return to their previous placements because they were so unhappy there.

Medical records revealed about 200 claims for scabies and multiple claims for the treatment of parasites in fiscal 2004, involving about 1,500 prescriptions at a cost of $80,000.

Scabies often is found among people living in crowded and unsanitary conditions. An unhealthy living environment can affect the mental health of already emotionally fragile children.

Alternatives to Psychotropic Medications – Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is a common treatment that can help children understand and resolve their problems and modify their behavior. It can come in many forms, including individual, family and group therapy, play therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy.5

Many foster children need therapy because they have been removed from their homes, which can be very stressful.

The Comptroller’s office has found that Texas foster children often come from unhealthy living environments, and some remain in unstable and unsafe living conditions while in the foster care system.

ITS ALMOST TUESDAY WELCOMES AND ENCOURAGES READERS’ COMMENTS ON  THE TOPIC OF THIS OUTRAGEOUS ACT OF DRUGGING FOSTER CHILDREN, DISREGARDING THEIR RIGHTS AS HUMAN BEINGS 

THE LIVES OF FOSTER CHILDREN ARE NOT DISPOSABLE

 Graffiti

accountability, Collin County, Texas, corruption, government, judicial system, legal, news, system failure
District Clerk’s Case Set for Trial
Source: Collin County Observer

The pretrial hearing in the Collin County District Clerk’s case held on November 8, 2011 revolved around motions filed by former District Clerk Hannah Kunkle’s attorney John Charles Hardin. Watching Mr. Hardin in action, it appears he is nothing if not flamboyant, perhaps a cross between Richard “Racehorse” Haynes and Colonel Harland Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame.

The hearing was held in the suffocatingly small Auxiliary Courtroom #3 and with so many grandmothers in attendance; it looked more like a gathering of the Collin County Garden Club.

All of Mr. Hardin’s minor motions were granted, but only after objections made by attorney pro tem John Helms resulted in the rewriting of many of them. However, a motion for continuance was denied, as was Hardin’s request to have former District Clerk Hannah Kunkle’s trial severed from her co-defendants.

A major dispute erupted between Mr. Hardin and Mr. Helms concerning when discovery would be made available to Mr. Hardin for use in preparing Hannah Kunkle’s defense. The dispute became so heated that Judge Nelms had to quiet the two. Mr. Hardin demanded a specific time and place for all discovery and a list of the state’s expert witnesses to be provided to him. It was finally decided the exchange would take place November the 15th at 10 AM at the courthouse. Judge Nelms left it for Hardin and Helms to decide exactly where in the courthouse the exchange would take place.

Next up was Sherry Bell’s attorney Mr. Yoon Kim. Based on the decisions made on Kunkle’s motions, many of Mr. Kim’s motions were withdrawn or were granted without objection by Mr. Helms. Helms objected to Kim’s motion requiring disclosure of all information concerning the informers who brought the allegations against the four district clerks. Judge Nelms granted this motion.

Derek King Walpole representing Rebecca Littrell asked to adopt all orders to Littrell’s case. Judge Nelms granted this motion.

Judge Nelms next considered motions filed by District Clerk Patricia Crigger’s attorney Robert Hinton. Judge Nelms stated, “I ruled on all of Kunkle’s motions and therefore I have ruled on yours,” to which Mr. Hinton said, “yes sir.”

Next Judge Nelms busied himself with judicial housekeeping. In discussing voir dire Judge Nelms stated there would be 56 peremptory challenges. 28 for the state and 7 for each of the defendants. Mr. Walpole suggested they might need to call 250 members of the jury pool. Judge Nelms felt 150 would be sufficient and expressed concern that the selection of a jury should take no more than one day because of voir dire cost the county $6000 a day.

The affable Judge Nelms closed the hearing stating, “Thanks for being here, I’ll see you on the 28th.”

John

Comments, Pingbacks:

Comment from: COLLIN COUNTY ATTORNEY [Visitor] Email
Was John Hardin wearing his deer skin vest? He has always tried to channel Gerry Spence. The attorneys are so used to it, we don’t even notice anymore!
PermalinkPermalink 11/10/11 @ 16:04

The District Clerks trial: Day 1

November 28th, 2011

The Case
In September, 2009 Hannah Kunkle, the long-time District Clerk announced she would retire and endorsed Patricia Crigger running for the job.

Patricia won the race after a run-off, but a few months later, the Texas Rangers raided the District Clerks office at the Collin County Court House.

The Texas Rangers seized computer hard drives, removable storage drives, calendars, binders, and 2 employee Access Cards. Ranger Davidson interviewed and took testimony from 5 District Clerk employees who charged that they were either pressured into working for the Crigger campaign or told they would be rewarded with “Blue Book” time for any PTO (paid personal time off) taken to campaign.

“Blue Book” time was paid time off that was not authorized by county policies, but instead kept by the supervisors on Excel spreadsheets, and later in binders. One informer told Davidson that the “Blue Books” began in the early 1990’s after Hannah Kunkle was elected as District Clerk. When “Blue Book” time was taken by an employee, their supervisor would falsify county records to show that the employee was at work. Employees were reminded to leave their “Access Cards” with their supervisors when taking “Blue Book” time off, so that the supervisor could clock them in as ‘present’.

Davidson charges that at least 29 employees (out of 63 in the District Clerk’s Office) received “Blue Book” time off during the Crigger Campaign. In the 24 page Affidavit, Davidson lists several examples of employees being reported as present, but not having logged into their computers and of having ‘out-of-office’ messages on their phones. The DA’s documents show over 220 work days in free day, with county money, were given to employees for working on the Crigger campaign.

After she was indicted, she was sworn in as the new elected District Clerk.

The cast:

Judge:

  • Judge John Nelms, a retired judge from Dallas County

For the State:

  • John Helms,Jr., prosecutor pro tem an attorney in Dallas
  • Rebecca Gregory, 2nd prosecutor pro tem the former US Attorney of the Northern District of Texas

Hannah Kunkle, the former elected District Clerk. John Hardin is her attorney.For the Defense:

  • Patricia Crigger, the current elected District Clerk.Robert Hinton is her attorney.
  • Rebecca Littrell, the Chief Deputy District Clerk. Derek King Walpole is her attorney.
  • Sherry Bell, a Deputy District Clerk. Yoon Kim is her attorney.

The Charges

  • Kunkle, Crigger, and Littrell are charged with Abuse of Official Capacity, for more than $20,000 and less than $100,000. The charge is a 3rd degree felony, punishable by imprisonment in the penitentiary from 2 years to 10 years plus a $10,000 fine.
  • Kunkle, Crigger, Littrell and Bell are charged with Conspiracy of Abuse of Official Capacity, for more than $20,000 and less than $100,000. The charge is a ‘state jail felony’, punishable by imprisonment in a State Jail from 6 months to 2 years plus a $10,000 fine.

The Trial – Day One:

Most of today’s morning was spent corralling the 200 prospective jurors, organizing the court room and then listening to a couple of motion arguments.

I was surprised when I saw the defendants. At first I didn’t recognize Hannah Kunkle. She looks some how smaller and older. Her hair was simple and completely grey. Kunkle was wearing a dress looking an older, conservative, dignified lady. The other three ladies’ appearance looked in total contrast to Ms. Kunkle. Normally a defendant wants to give a jury’s a good their first impression.

Patricia Crigger appeared to be very worn and distracted. She looked disheveled looking like she came in from a storm. Rebecca Littrell came to court in a dressy, casual pants suit. The most shocking was Sherry Bell. She appeared in court in slacks and a home decorated applique sweatshirt. She looked like a bag lady coming to court looking for a free lawyer.

The judge and bailiff spent the large part of organizing moving the trial from a court room to the Central Grand Jury Room. That room was the only one capable of seating over 200 people.

After the court settled down, John Hardin made two motions to continue the case, and to sever Kunkle’s charges from the trial. The judge had ruled the same questions before, and again the judge denied the motions.

After lunch, voir dire began. The judge warned the panel that these trials may go on to December 15. Nelms promised them that the trial will not go into Christmas.

I do need to thank Judge Nelms and the prosecutor. He asked the panel did anyone know Bill Baumbach…. and then Helm’s later asked them twice if anyone reads the Collin County Observer. While no one said they knew me or read the CCO, I think the court I owe the court for the free advertising of the Collin County Observer. The jury panel was a captive audience and he had their complete attention. That kind of advertising is priceless.

The voir dire will continue late tomorrow.

The District Clerks trial: Day 2

November 30th, 2011

The second day of the trial was entirely spent in choosing a jury

Judge John Nelms

Voir dire took all morning.

After lunch, the judge told the 200 folks on the jury panel, that if they want to ask for an excuse for serving on the jury, he and the counsel would meet with each of them individually, and the judge and attorneys would vote if they could be excused.

59 people lined up to talk to the judge.

That took most all afternoon – from my perspective the procedure had as much drama as watching paint dry.

After the excuses, there were 147 members left in the panel. Each defendant had 7 strikes against a potential juror, and the State had 28 strikes. The whole process was finished a little after 6 PM.

The judge sworn in 10 men and 2 women as the jury. (I wonder if a male jury is less forgiving to female defendants, then a jury made up of mostly female jurors. I don’t know.)

The trial will begin again at 9:30 AM at the Ceremonial Courtroom. First up will be the State’s opening arguments.

 

The District Clerk’s Trial – Day 3

December 1st, 2011

The District Clerk’s Trial – Day 3
By: Lex In Limine (LIL)
Attorney at Law
Guest Contributor

After some preliminary matters, the parties presented their Opening Arguments.

John M. Helms, Jr.

The Prosecution, lead by John Helms, Jr. , prosecutor pro tem, began. With a clear voice and methodical manner, he told the jury of four women and six men that this was a case that involved the abuse of taxpayer dollars and the interference with free and fair elections. Of the 63 employees at the District Clerk’s office, all but one are female. He referred to the office as a “Good Ole’ Girl Network.”

The Defendants, Hannah Kunkle, Patricia Crigger, Rebecca Litrell, and Sherry Bell were the four highest “ranking” employees of the office at the time of the alleged offense. The Clerk’s office set up a rewards and benefits system for the employees and this system was kept “secret” from the Collin County Commissioners’ Court. Helms was quick to emphasize that the Defendants were not being prosecuted for the “secret” reward and benefit system.Helms stated that the crime alleged to be committed by the Defendants is the misuse of labor to promote the campaign of Patricia Crigger. The reward system was “off book” paid leave time that was referred to as “Blue Book” time. Again, Helms repeated that there is no crime in having the secret Blue Book time, but, instead, the use of said time for campaign work is what offends.

Helms produced a poster with snap shots of the Defendants and explained their respective job titles. He described the defendants as “joined at the hip” and a close knit group. The proximity of their respective work spaces added to their camaraderie. Helms said the evidence will show that the absences of the workforce when using “Blue Book” time adversely affected the efficiency of the office.

Helms then described the “anxiousness” felt by the many employees when they learned of Kunkle’s retirement. Kunkle had been in office for many years and they were concerned they would lose their jobs with a new regime. A lunch meeting was held at Fudruckers in January 2010 – two meetings to permit proper coverage of the office. The meetings, allegedly headed by the Defendants, are where Litrell stated that those who worked for Crigger’s campaign would be rewarded with Blue Book time.

Helms stated that in April after the runoff election between Alma Hayes and Patricia Crigger (Crigger won the election handily), the Press (which is The Collin County Observer) made a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request for the time records of the District Clerk Employees during the period of the campaign. Records were provided – but none of the Blue Book time was supplied.

The Human Resources Department noticed irregularities in time keeping. This was attributed to supervisors overriding the computer records and entering time arrival and departures in whole/exact numbers. If an employee swiped their card in the reader, the time would probably not be at the exact hour, for example.

The HR department audited the time records. The supervisors then collected the access cards of the employees and “swiped” various employees in or out of work to make it appear they were in the office, when they were, in fact, exercising paid leave pursuant to the Blue Book.

In June 2010, the Texas Rangers raided the District Clerk’s office and confiscated records and computer hard drives. Helms stated that despite the FOIA press request, the HR audit, and a raid by the Texas Rangers, the Defendants never conducted any type or form of internal investigation.

Helms concluded by stating that the Defendants had a “feeling of entitlement” and “undermined the integrity of an election.” Crigger had second thoughts about using the Blue Book time but did nothing to stop it and she benefitted from it.

Patricia Crigger

Defendant Patricia Crigger’s attorney, Robert Hintondelivered the second Opening Argument. Hinton specializes in representing legal professionals and elected officials. An experienced litigator with a folksy and easy manner, Hinton addressed the jury and agreed with much of the characterization of the prosecution. He agreed that the Defendants were “Good Ole’ Girls” – they are just good people. He described Kunkle’s office as the best District Clerk’s Office in the State. (Many an attorney, LIL included, can attest to this – regardless of the guilt or innocence of the Defendants, there is no clerk’s office that matches this one.)

He describes his client, Patricia Crigger, as a “God fearing woman” who worked at the office for 24 years in a career that she began as a secretary. The Blue Book system has been in existence since the “beginning of time” and is necessary because the county cannot offer cash or monetary rewards or incentives because of budgetary constraints.

Over the years, time clocks gave way to computers and swipe cards. Blue Book time was kept manually at first then it was kept on the computer. When the HR department asked the Clerk’s to discontinue manually overriding the time records, they adopted the system of swiping the ID cards of the employees. Every time the HR department asked the clerks to change the way they kept time, they complied. What occurred is not illegal. As an elected official, Hannah Kunkle could do what she wanted with her budget.

The employees at the Clerk’s office feared for their jobs because a Crigger opponent allegedly promised to ‘clean house” if elected. The employees had a garage sale to pay for Crigger’s filing fee (to seek election). Hinton stated that Crigger was the most qualified person in Collin County for the job.

The Fudruckers luncheons did occur and Kunkle promised Blue Book time to those who worked on Crigger’s campaign. But this, according to Hinton, was against the will of Crigger. After the election, Crigger told the supervisors to alert the employees to use their Blue Book time because this practice of Blue Book time would be discontinued in January 2011 when Crigger took office.

Hinton then describes what he learned about one of the Prosecution’s witnesses, Kristy Duty. Duty was a relatively high ranking employee at the Clerk’s office who was assigned to the 296th District Court, presided by Judge John Roach, Jr.. Allegedly, Roach, who was seeking re election at the time, asked that the clerks of his court display his signs, alongside those of Crigger at campaign sites. Crigger did not permit the display of Roach’s campaign signs by the clerks and this “infuriated Roach.” Then Duty made her complaint to Roach.

Hinton concluded by stating “mistakes were made,” and Crigger never agreed to this practice.

Rebecca Lettrell

Defendant Rebecca Littrell’s attorney, Deric Walpole, gave the third opening argument. (Yes attorneys and non attorneys alike – this is a LOOONG trial and there are many players – usually there are only two sides to a dispute).

Walpole is an experienced criminal attorney who recently defended Warren Jeffs at the YFZ child sexual assault trial, and is a self described victim of the former district attorney. He is an aggressive litigator and wastes no time with pretences. He began by stating that the prosecution of this case is “politically motivated.” He described what occurred as akin to someone waiting in the bushes, watching a fire start, and refusing to call for help until the house burned down. He said that the law is not a sword, it is a shield.

Walpole stated that Duty complained to Judge Roach and surmised the following scenario: “I’m going to Dad, Dad goes to the Texas Rangers, and you are getting arrested.” (Note – the past District Attorney, John Roach, Sr. is Judge John Roach, Jr.’s father)

Littrell has worked for the District Clerk’s office for 24 years and this is all she knows. He told the jurors that the original indictments against these Defendants were for keeping the Blue Book Hours – and nothing more. At this point the Prosecution objected to this but he was quickly overruled by the judge. Walpole continued, that since the District Attorney’s office, then lead by DA John Roach, Sr., had their own “Blue Book” system, the indictment was dropped and Littrell was re indicted with other charges.

He describes Duty as a disgruntled employee who is a cousin by marriage to Littrell. Duty and Littrell did not “get along.” The impetus for this investigation and subsequent trial is Kristy Duty’s chagrin over having to use paid leave for a snow day. Allegedly, Duty had previously arranged to have paid leave on that day. As it turns out, it snowed that day and all the employees were able to take leave pursuant to a snow day. Duty did not want to use her paid leave for that day and requested that HR change her timesheet to reflect this change. HR refused and Duty complained to Littrell. Littrell told her that she can use her accrued Blue Book Time instead. For whatever reason, this offended Duty. So, she then complained to Judge Roach.

Walpole stated that the Defendants are not in a position of power and have no influence over anybody. He stated that the legal standard for conviction in this case requires that the Littrell “intentionally or knowingly” misused government property. And she did not know. And she did nothing wrong. He said that the clerks used Blue Book time to work on the campaigns of County Commissioner Joe Jaynes and County Clerk, Stacy Kemp.

Walpole concluded stating “don’t throw their careers in the trash because someone didn’t hold up a freakin’ sign.”

Sherry Bell

Defemdant, Sherry Bell, represented by Yoon Kimdelivered the 4th Opening Argument. Yoon, a young attorney and former prosecutor, spoke briefly about his clinet. He describes her as a 64 year old with a high school education who worked for the clerk’s office for 22 years. She was advised that she could help the campaign and she did not realize that she was doing anything wrong. There was no intent for a conspiracy.

THE JURY WAS EXCUSED AT THE REQUEST OF JOHN HARDIN

John Hardin then made a motion to sever Hannah Kunkle’s trial from the other Defendants. This motion was denied. Helms, for the Prosecution, requested that any testimony regarding the prior indictments and attempts to indict the Defendants be excluded. This was denied by the court also. Helms protested that he did not want it to appear that he was a party to the prior indictments. Hardin then stated, and this is not an exact quote, “when you step into someone’s shoes, you step into the mud too.”

AND THE JURY IS BACK

Hardin addressed each individual juror by name and reminded them that this is the second week of Advent. He described former Constable and husband, Jerry Kunkle’s various illnesses and hospitalizations, including a debilitating heart attack in Colorado, and stated that Kunkle retired to attend to the needs of her husband and family.Defendant, Hannah Kunkle, represented by John Hardindelivered the 5th and FINAL Opening Argument. Hardin is a prominent, long time, and well known Collin County attorney. He has a folksy and casual manner with the jurors. His style is a conversational one which causes him to segue to various points of information – and the summary here reflects that style.

Hardin relates that After Kunkle announced her retirement, Kristy Duty and another Clerk’s office employee organized a garage sale to raise money to pay for Crigger’s filing fee. This prosecution “star witness” seemed to want Crigger to win and engaged in the same activities of which the Defendants are accused. Kristy created a flyer for the occasion. Hannah saw the flyer and promptly advised Kristy that “no one is to campaign in the office.”

He stated he did not know what happened at the Fudrucker’s meeting. He said that Judge Roach, an honorable man, was subpoenaed, and will testify at the trial. He mentioned to the jury that there is an article in the March edition of the Dallas Observer that describes the Collin County “Kangaroo Court.” He suggested the jury review the article and then he told them not to do their own research. (Not sure why the prosecution did not object to this one – LIL)

Hardin then segued to the actual election. He said that a Laura Roberge was campaigning at the Election office displaying signs for Crigger and Judge Roach. Sherry Bell called Roberge and told her to stop displaying Roach’s sign. Roberge called Roach and Roach allegedly went to the Election office.

Hardin then describes the raid by the Texas Rangers. The office was shut down during business hours. The Rangers confiscated records, computers, and even hand searched the purses of the employees. This raid was an absolute shock to all in the District Clerk’s office.

Hardin relates that the Defendants, with the exception of Kunkle, were indicted two times before and the indictments were dropped. Greg Davis, then the First Assistant to DA Roach, made a Brady Filing requesting recusal from the case because the DA’s office uses a system called “High Five” to permit exemplary employees to take leave from the office while time records falsely indicated they were actually working. This lead to the appointment of a prosecutor pro tem – John Helms, Jr.. Hardin relates that Helms and his team interviewed various employees. Pursuant to these interviews, Littrell asked Kunkle to write a letter vouching for her and the other defendants. Kunkle did so, and among the various documents that were presented to the subsequent Grand Jury, Kunkle’s letter was among them. This, asserts Hardin, is the reason that Kunkle was indicted in May 2011.

Hardin then describes his repeated requests for a continuance and his difficulty in obtaining discovery from the Prosecution. He stated that Kunkle, upon her announcement to retire, spent many days at the end of her term caring for her husband and was not involved in the minutiae of the office . He conclude by stating that Kunkle specifically forbid any campaigning in the office.

Lex In Limine
Attorney at Law

 

Cousins, Babysitters, and Snow Days – More from Day Three of the District Clerk Trial

December 1st, 2011

By: Magna Carta
Attorney at Law

On Day Three of the District Clerk trial, John Helms Jr. for the Prosecution called Ms. Kristy Duty who worked for the District Clerk’s office and remains a county employee in another division.

Kristy Littrell Duty

Duty described the Blue Book system as being a system for recording extra hours that employees worked, redeemable as PTO (Paid Time Off). Initially, when a person redeemed PTO time from the Blue Book, their supervisor would manually enter aPeopleSoft record showing that employee had actually been at work. (PeopleSoft is the software system they use in the HR department and payroll department.) Eventually, HR came to audit the DC office because of the excessive number of manual PeopleSoft entries. (Normally, entries are automatically created when a person scans his or her badge.) Once the HR audit was completed, employees and supervisors adopted the practice of employees leaving their badges with their supervisor when redeeming Blue Book time so the supervisor could “swipe” the employee in and out. This created the PeopleSoft record needed to get the employee paid without requiring a manual entry. Duty described the Blue Book system as being secret in the sense that it was not to be disclosed outside of the District Clerk’s office.

Deric Walpole

Rebecca Littrell’s attorney, Deric Walpole, cross examined Duty. During Walpole’s cross, Duty admitted that the DC employees described the Blue Book system to her during her initial job interview with the DC’s office, his point being that if it was so secret, why were they telling a mere prospective employee? Her response was that because her cousin (Littrell) was involved in the hiring process and everyone knew she was going to get the job. [Implicating the “Good Ole’ Boy (Girl?)” network arrogance that is so endemic in Collin County.]

Duty admitted that she had been the beneficiary of the Blue Book system. When she was pregnant and on bed rest, she had to work one weekend to show Crigger and others how to change some accounting codes in the AS/400 system. She received 40 Blue Book hours for the weekend, which she redeemed. Defense attorneys pointed this out more than once. And each time she distinguished her use of the Blue Book as being related to work she did for the county vs. working on someone’s election campaign.Initially, Duty testified that her only involvement in the Crigger campaign was that she and Melissa Smith held a garage sale to help raise funds to pay Crigger’s filing fee. Later, under cross examination by Walpole, she remembered that she held a Saturday evening meet and greet, close to the Valentine’s Day.

Duty described a meeting at Fuddruckers and recounted that Littrell encouraged the staff to campaign for Crigger and they would “get their time back.”

Hannah Kunkle’s attorney, John Harden, cross examined Duty. She admitted that Kunkle never said anything about anyone getting reimbursed for campaign time. Littrell sent a reminder email (using the county computers) regarding the Fuddrucker lunch. Walpole pointed out during his cross that if the Blue Book system was so secret, why did they talk about it openly and freely during lunch hour at a popular restaurant?

Duty testified that when Human Resources notified the District Clerk’s office that they would be conducting an audit, Littrell sent an email to the supervisors instructing them to delete their Blue Book spreadsheets prior to the audit. According to the Blue Book calendar, some employees would take several days off in a row to work on Crigger’s campaign. Sometimes so many people would be out of the office working on the campaign that there were not enough people for the office to function properly. Duty alleged that phones were not being answered, people couldn’t take lunch breaks, parties couldn’t get their file marked copies, etc. [I never understood what this meant, having lots of experience in getting things file marked. There has never been a delay, in my experience – MC]

On cross, Walpole asked her WHO complained about the service. She said “lots of people.” He said “name one.” She named two people and punctuated it with a sarcastic “how’s that?” Walpole asked Duty to name a single customer who complained. Duty finally admitted she never actually heard any customer complaints–just heard people complaining about people complaining.

NON SEQUITUR: Duty never held a campaign sign for Judge Roach.

Duty testified that in February 2010, it snowed. Employees were told that they could take half a day off and record it inPeopleSoft as 4 hours of “Office Closed” time. If they wanted to take off the entire day, they needed to record an additional 4 hours of PTO time. She took the entire day off, but somehow her time was recorded in PeopleSoft? as 8 hours of PTO time. Initially Duty testified that she complained about this to Littrell who told her to call Human Resources. She called the payroll department and was told that if Littrell or Kunkle would send an email, payroll would correct the time entry. Littrell, according to Duty’s testimony, told her that Kunkle and Crigger wanted all of her PTO would go on the Blue Book, rather than a PeopleSoft correction. This upset Duty. LATER, during Hardin’s cross, Duty admitted that Kunkle had never been involved in her timesheet and Kunkle’s name never appeared on any of the emails comprising this transaction.

The next day, still upset about her PTO time AND all the campaign time she saw being logged into the Blue Book, she complained to Judge Roach. About two weeks later, Roach told Duty and a Lara Roberge, who made a separate complaint, that he took the issue to his father, John Roach, Sr., the District Attorney at the time, who, in turn, referred the issue to the Texas Rangers. Judge Roach told them that they should know that as supervisors in the department, they could face jail time for being part of the system they were complaining about.

[Yes, this blew up over 4 hours of PTO time for a person probably making $15/hour. $60 would have kept all this under wraps.]

Duty testified that she was contacted by Texas Ranger A.P. Davidson. She described the Blue Book system to him and thereafter kept him informed of what was occurring in the DC office. She quit her job in the DC office in November 2010 because she did not want to work under the Crigger/Littrell regime.

Duty described the falling out she had with Littrell. Twelve years ago, she and Littrell “got into it.” They were very close (cousins by marriage) when she first moved to Collin County. Littrell and Husband Adam asked her to babysit their child. She agreed. Later, she decided to spend time with her sister so she backed out. Littrell was hurt by this. She thinks this is where the relationship started to sour between her and Littrell. [There is a pungent waft of “pettiness” (this being a polite word) on all sides throughout this story. Little hurts and annoyances leading to big bangs.]

Kunkle discovered a Crigger campaign flyer in the office and was very upset about campaigning on county time. Kunkle said “they shouldn’t do this.” Hardin made her tell this story several times. Hardin was genteel but insistent and forced Duty to admit she had no personal knowledge of Kunkle’s involvement in anything.

Magna Carta
Attorney at Law

Yes,, Attorneys are Expensive – Aaaand we’re back –

Day 4 of the District Clerks Trial

December 3rd, 2011

By Lex In Limine
Attorney at Law
Guest Contributer

Lorrie Robertson takes the stand. She is a supervisor at the District Clerk’s office. She was one of the Defendants who was originally arrested and indicted.

Through the direct examination of John Helms, Jr. for the prosecution, Robertson explained the various calendars and spreadsheets and how they were used to record Blue Book time. She testified that the Blue Book time was kept on the computer until Rebecca Littrell told her to remove it – sometime before the Runoff between Patricia Crigger and Alma Hayes in April 2010. She did so.

Robertson admitted that much of the Blue Book time was for leave not associated with the campaign. She testified that Littrell told her to encourage the staff that she supervised to work on the Crigger campaign. And she did, in fact encourage this.

At the time of the raid by the Texas Rangers, Robertson had another employees badge in her possession. That employee was not at the office but was exercising this Blue Book time. Robertson, as the supervisor of this employee had swiped the badge to make it appear that the employee was at work, when she was, in fact, not.
Yoon Kim, attorney for Sherry Bell, then cross examined Robertson. Robertson admitted that she was originally indicted. In July 2010, she entered into a plea agreement with then assistant District Attorney, (and instigator of most of these types of cases) Chris Milner.

NON SEQUITOR – Milner has a history of prosecuting defense attorneys for typos in their pleadings – alleging some type of government document tampering. Most of these cases have been dismissed and Milner has been mentioned in other publications regarding this over reaching and abusive tactic. He attempted to prosecute the current District Attorney, Greg Willis, for some crime – don’t know the exact charge – but basically Milner did not like how Wills ran his court (when he was a judge). The Grand Jury refused to indict Willis and took the unusual step of preparing a written statement explaining that Willis committed NO CRIME.

After Robertson entered into her plea of guilty to engaging in organized criminal activity, she kept her job and she wasn’t fined. (why don’t the other ladies get the same deal?) Later the indictments against the other defendants were dropped and re-indicted. She was afraid that her ex-husband would attempt to seek custody of her young children if she was prosecuted. So, she agreed to assist the prosecution.

She remained in the office during all of the alleged campaign activities. She reluctantly admitted that the business of the Disrict Clerk’s office never suffered during the campaign. She admitted that Kristy Duty, a prosecution witness and former employee of the Clerk’s office, was “in and out” of the office a lot because she was working with IT. She testified that not all Blue Book time was actually redeemed.

She was a former roommate with Crigger opponent, Alma Hayes, and this caused discomfort in the office. Robertson asserts that Hannah Kunkle excoriated her for supporting Hayes. Bur Crigger advised Robertson that it was not appropriate for Kunkle to do that and she could support whoever she wanted.

Deric Walpole, attorney for Sherry Littrell, cross examined Robertson. Robertson testified that if a judge or anyone else had advised the office what they were doing was illegal, Kunkle would have stopped it immediately.

NON SEQUITOR – Deric – you are a top notch attorney – so please take those sunglasses off your neck!

During the Robert Hinton, attorney for Patricia Crigger, cross examination, Robertson denied ever hearing Crigger proclaim that the Blue Book system would cease upon her taking office. But she found the Blue Book system to be a good program which contributed to the success of the office.

Robertson testified that the day she was arrested was the most embarrassing day of her life. She was humiliated. No one from the District Clerk’s office told her what to do. She hired attorney George Milner (no relation to Chris Milner)

John Hardin, attorney for Hannah Kunkle, cross examined the witness next. Hardin reminded Robertson that they had known each other since she was a child, she played with his dog, etc. etc. ( a lot of folksy introductions going on here – so BORING) Hardin promised the witness that no matter what happened, they would remain friends.

Robertson, through tears, testified that Kunkle was a very special and awesome lady. At the Fuddrucker’s meeting, she only remembers Littrell speaking and alleges that Littrell , when encouraging the staff to work on the Crigger campaign, said “we will figure out a way to get your time back.”

She met with prosecutor pro tem, John Helms, Jr.. Through attorneys, he asked to speak with Robertson. When asked, through Hardin, whether she took her attorney with her to this meeting, she said no “because he is very expensive.” This statement drew laughs from the gallery and the hoards of attorney in the courtroom. Judge Nelms asked the court reporter to make a transcription of that statement and laughed. (Attorneys are, indeed expensive – and they deserve every penny, I say!)

She met Helms for dinner and discussed car racing, oh and, also the District Clerk’s office.

I had to leave at this point and Bill will be covering the rest of the day. I will continue to cover the trial if you find that my posts are helpful to your understanding of this case.

Lex
Attorney at Law

District Clerks Corruption Trial – CLOSING ARGUMENTS

December 6th, 2011

By: Lex Lawyer
Attorney at Law
Guest Contributor

We have a verdict and a sentence – but I have been asked to bring everyone up to date on what transpired before the verdict. I have studied and analyzed the Closing Arguments – So Get Ready!!!

The State rested on Friday, December 2, 2011 around 2:30 p.m.. The court recessed until the following Monday at 9:00 A.M.. So, everyone shows up in court Monday morning – all ready to hear this rest of this loooooong trial. Guess what? The Defense rests. Judge Nelms was surprised by this and determined that the attorneys would work on the Jury Charge on Monday and they would resume Tuesday morning to read the charge to the jury and to hear closing arguments.

Tuesday – today – Judge Nelms read the charge to the jury. This is a very aggravating time for attorneys and litigants. This reading of a very long charge is required by the law. The jurors get a Charge to read in the jury room but every word is read to them – even the judge sounded bored.

Mentioned in the charge are the legal requirements necessary to find a “conspiracy.” There must be corroboration of testimony to find that a conspiracy occurred. Moreover, an accomplice, (such as the testifying District Clerk employees who used the Blue Book Time), cannot corroborate each other. There must be proof independent of the testimony of the accomplices.

The Charge contained many lesser included offenses. For example, even if the jury finds that government funds in an amount less than $20 was somehow misappropriated, some sort of lesser conviction can occur.

CLOSING ARGUMENTS

John Helms, Jr., Prosecutor Pro Tem

Helms describes this case as an “abuse of official capacity.” He states, “this is why we are here . . .” Aaaand, we are waiting for what I think is a dramatic video or something. Nothing happens and an assistant or some attorney is fiddling with some switches on a machine. This temporarily throws off the Mojo of Helms (I hate it when stuff like this happens to me – stupid equipment – that is why I stick to posters – nonetheless, not your fault , Helms! – LL) Well the AV equipment isn’t exactly working and finally, an audio recording booms through the courtroom. It is a recording of telephone conversation between Defendant Rebecca Littrell and Lara Roberge, a District Clerk employee. Littrell tells Roberge that she has used over 100 hours [on Crigger’s campaign] of her Personal Time Off (PTO) and will get it back on Blue Book – and she will do the same for Roberge.

Helms states, with steady eloquence, that this case is about “influencing an election.” He begins to review the charge with the jury. He asks one of his assistants to display the charge on the trusty ELMO projector. (For those of you who don’t know, Collin County is blessed with a Battlestar Galactica set up of technology that is the envy of many counties.) Guess what, the ELMO isn’t turned on. Assistants are flipping switches, Helms tries to get it to work. The attorneys mention that the bailiff knows how to work the projector. The Bailiff is in the anteroom “bailifing.” Yoon Kim, attorney for Defendant Sherry Bell, volunteers that he knows how to use the equipment. Judge Nelms is relieved and Kim gets to work. (Kim is a young attorney so he knows what he is doing! LL). Kim gets on the judge’s computer then assists Helms with his computer and, voila, ELMO is working.

NON- SEQUITOR – Kim is quite a gentleman to assist the Prosecution with this. He is a better man than me. I would have stared at the ceiling.-LL

Helms reviewed the charge with the jurors. The element of intent is required for these crimes and Helms said intent could be found because the Blue Book time program was asecret. Helms stated that the law does not require that the object of the conspiracy was accomplished – only that there was an agreement among the Defendants.

He reviewed the chronology of events. In the Fall of 2009, Hannah Kunkle announced her retirement. Patricia Crigger, Alma Hays, and Terrye Evans announced they were running for the office. Hays had a head start on fundraising and campaigning. At a Christmas party, Kunkle told everyone they should support Crigger. Kunkle wrote a letter of endorsement for Crigger.

Concerned that Crigger did not have enough volunteers, the Fuddrucker’s luncheon was held. Helms described the Defendants as the “Brain Trust” of this operation who took seats at the foot of the table. Littrell did most of the talking but all of the Defendants “strategized.”

Helms described various emails sent by Kunkle to friends where she lamented the election and did not want to turn over her office to someone who “didn’t have a clue” on running the place. He described other emails by other Defendants that were introduced in the trial. He casually mentioned that there were “complaints” about how the office was run without mentioning specific testimony or evidence.

Twenty District Clerk employees were involved in this activity, and he named each one. (Why weren’t they indicted? – LL) They were audited by HR. After the FOIA request (by The Observer), Ms. Jacobsen from the HR office asked Crigger about the request and Crigger assured Jacobsen that “nothing was going on.”

Littrell instructed her supervisors to remove the BB time from the computer and keep records on “scraps of paper” – a retreat of technology. The Defendants swiped badges for other employees.

The Blue Book program does not stop until June 2, 2010, the day of the raid by the Texas Rangers. During the raid, Littrell called Linda James, an employee and witness, and said, “the Texas Rangers are here – if you are asked, you don’t know anything.”

After all of this, no one was fired. Instead, they were promoted!!

Helms describes some of the various lesser included offenses in the charge. The misuse of a sum greater than $1500 is a State Jail Felony. The misuse of a sum greater than $20,000 is a Third Degree Felony. Oh yeah, and the misuse of less than $1500 is a Class A Misdemeanor.

Helms then used the spreadsheet prepared by the Texas Ranger to demonstrate how the amount of misused funds were calculated. It was determined that for each hour of time misused by the employees, the cost, INCLUDING BENEFITS – NOT JUST STRAIGHT TIME – was approximately $25. (I do not believe the Prosecution could have reached the Third Degree Felony level without this particular formula – LL)

He stated that the Defendants misused used approximately $26,000 of time poll sitting, block walking, and campaigning for Crigger on County time by this calculation.

Helms said regardless of whether all of the Blue Book time was actually exercised, a crime is still committed. He countered defense arguments that much of the Blue Book time was accrued before the campaign activities by showing the various calendars and ledgers that recorded the time spent on the campaign and said that more time was accrued during the campaign than before.

The Texas Ranger testified that, at the time of the raid, Littrell gave him the Blue Book time schedule when asked. He said the Defendants thought they could get away with this and described their behavior as “brazen.” Sometimes, Helms said, “if you are in an [elected] position too long, you get a feeling of entitlement.”

(I apologize for not having a summary of Robert Hinton’s (attorney for Crigger) argument – we were unable to cover that one. – LL)

Yoon Kim, attorney for Defendant Sherry Bell

Kim focused on the element of intent required by the Charge. Specific mental intent, mens rea, is required for guilt and it is not possessed by Bell. She thought she was doing the right thing. All of the witnesses were co-conspirators and therefore, could not, by law, corroborate the charges of a conspiracy.

He described the testimony of Lorri Robertson. She was indicted and signed a confession admitting guilt. Then the indictment was dismissed. Moreover, Robertson was never indicted of the same crime as the Defendants. He described Ranger Davidson’s Excel spreadsheet as not being trustworthy and much of the Blue Book time was accrued and used before the campaign.

He said, “you cannot trust the evidence to put these women in prison for their lives.”

Deric Walpole, Attorney for Rebecca Littrell

Walpole, sans the sunglasses (thank you – LL), finds the law to be on the side of the Defendants. He describes the Defendants as good people. He described his role as a defense attorney as a difficult one. Many of his clients are not good people and he has to “set fires” (literal not figurative) to divert attention from their misdeeds. But in this case, these Defendants are genuinely good people and he does not need to create any diversions for them.

He reiterated that all of these activities could have been stopped by a telephone call. And sometimes good people make mistakes. All of the PTO was done on the Defendants’ own time. The cost of this trial exceeds the alleged $26,000 in misused funds.

Walpole describes the prosecution as politically motivated and questioned why the prosecution waited until the election had ended to pursue their investigation. Because of the political situation, innuendo was used as evidence and innuendo is not evidence.

He said that Lorri Robertson confessed to nothing that the Defendants were prosecuted for.

John Hardin, Attorney for retired District Clerk, Hannah Kunkle

Kunkle was not indicted until recently – others were indicted many months before. He stated that he did not have sufficient time to prepare for trial.

Hardin related that John Roach, Sr., former Collin County District Attorney, never indicted Kunkle and Roach was a fierce prosecutor. And the fact that Roach did not prosecute Kunkle and Helms did, demonstrates the overzealousness of Helms, the prosecutor pro tem. Then, according to an observer in the court room, Hardin raised his hands above his head and started doing a “dance” toward Helms. While “dancing,” Hardin complained of the overzealous prosecution. He stopped and said “I’m so sorry, I just get upset.” No one objected to this (and I am not judging, in fact, I am impressed – Hardin’s client was acquitted, after all!)

He stated the evidence was insufficient for a conviction. He told the jurors that regardless of their verdict, he would like to get to know them and talk to them. Hardin concluded by stating, “when you leave the courthouse, on this cold day, during Christmas, you should feel good about what you did.”

John Helms, Jr., Prosecution – Rebuttal

Aaaaaaaand finally – we see the finish line. Helms stated that intent is not needed for a conviction. (huh?? – LL) He said a phone call would not have stopped the use of Blue Book time – the Defendants were fully engaged in these actions and were committed to it. There was never an internal investigation by the District Clerk’s office. The only investigation that was conducted was to find out who the whistle blowers are. Crigger’s reaction to the raid was to promote Bell and Littrell. He ended by stating that this is a third degree felony and the Defendants know it.

Hannah Kunkle was found NOT GUILTY
Patricia Crigger, Sherry Bell, and Rebecca Littrell were found GUILTY of all charges against them and accepted two years of probation each.

Lex Lawyer
Attorney at Law

Posted in Guest Opinions

WE HAVE A VERDICT IN THE DISTRICT CLERKS CORRUPTION CASE

December 6th, 2011

*BREAKING NEWS*

Bill was in the courtroom when the jury annnounced their verdict.

Patricia Crigger – GUILTY on all charges
Rebecca Littrell – GUILTY on all charges
Sherry Bell – GUILTY on her one charge
Hannah Kunkle – NOT GUILTY – Kunkle is acquitted.

Judge Nelms immediately asked Crigger to stand. He said, “you are removed from your office effective immediately. Do you understand?” Crigger replied, “Yes sir.”

Bill and I will have updates later this evening regarding evidence and testimony from Day 4 and the Closing Arguments.

Sentencing tomorrow at 9:00 A.M.

LEX LAWYER (In Limine)
Attorney at Law

District Clerks Corruption Trial – CLOSING ARGUMENTS

December 6th, 2011

By: Lex Lawyer
Attorney at Law
Guest Contributor

We have a verdict and a sentence – but I have been asked to bring everyone up to date on what transpired before the verdict. I have studied and analyzed the Closing Arguments – So Get Ready!!!

The State rested on Friday, December 2, 2011 around 2:30 p.m.. The court recessed until the following Monday at 9:00 A.M.. So, everyone shows up in court Monday morning – all ready to hear this rest of this loooooong trial. Guess what? The Defense rests. Judge Nelms was surprised by this and determined that the attorneys would work on the Jury Charge on Monday and they would resume Tuesday morning to read the charge to the jury and to hear closing arguments.

Tuesday – today – Judge Nelms read the charge to the jury. This is a very aggravating time for attorneys and litigants. This reading of a very long charge is required by the law. The jurors get a Charge to read in the jury room but every word is read to them – even the judge sounded bored.

Mentioned in the charge are the legal requirements necessary to find a “conspiracy.” There must be corroboration of testimony to find that a conspiracy occurred. Moreover, an accomplice, (such as the testifying District Clerk employees who used the Blue Book Time), cannot corroborate each other. There must be proof independent of the testimony of the accomplices.

The Charge contained many lesser included offenses. For example, even if the jury finds that government funds in an amount less than $20 was somehow misappropriated, some sort of lesser conviction can occur.

CLOSING ARGUMENTS

John Helms, Jr., Prosecutor Pro Tem

Helms describes this case as an “abuse of official capacity.” He states, “this is why we are here . . .” Aaaand, we are waiting for what I think is a dramatic video or something. Nothing happens and an assistant or some attorney is fiddling with some switches on a machine. This temporarily throws off the Mojo of Helms (I hate it when stuff like this happens to me – stupid equipment – that is why I stick to posters – nonetheless, not your fault , Helms! – LL) Well the AV equipment isn’t exactly working and finally, an audio recording booms through the courtroom. It is a recording of telephone conversation between Defendant Rebecca Littrell and Lara Roberge, a District Clerk employee. Littrell tells Roberge that she has used over 100 hours [on Crigger’s campaign] of her Personal Time Off (PTO) and will get it back on Blue Book – and she will do the same for Roberge.

Helms states, with steady eloquence, that this case is about “influencing an election.” He begins to review the charge with the jury. He asks one of his assistants to display the charge on the trusty ELMO projector. (For those of you who don’t know, Collin County is blessed with a Battlestar Galactica set up of technology that is the envy of many counties.) Guess what, the ELMO isn’t turned on. Assistants are flipping switches, Helms tries to get it to work. The attorneys mention that the bailiff knows how to work the projector. The Bailiff is in the anteroom “bailifing.” Yoon Kim, attorney for Defendant Sherry Bell, volunteers that he knows how to use the equipment. Judge Nelms is relieved and Kim gets to work. (Kim is a young attorney so he knows what he is doing! LL). Kim gets on the judge’s computer then assists Helms with his computer and, voila, ELMO is working.

NON- SEQUITOR – Kim is quite a gentleman to assist the Prosecution with this. He is a better man than me. I would have stared at the ceiling.-LL

Helms reviewed the charge with the jurors. The element of intent is required for these crimes and Helms said intent could be found because the Blue Book time program was asecret. Helms stated that the law does not require that the object of the conspiracy was accomplished – only that there was an agreement among the Defendants.

He reviewed the chronology of events. In the Fall of 2009, Hannah Kunkle announced her retirement. Patricia Crigger, Alma Hays, and Terrye Evans announced they were running for the office. Hays had a head start on fundraising and campaigning. At a Christmas party, Kunkle told everyone they should support Crigger. Kunkle wrote a letter of endorsement for Crigger.

Concerned that Crigger did not have enough volunteers, the Fuddrucker’s luncheon was held. Helms described the Defendants as the “Brain Trust” of this operation who took seats at the foot of the table. Littrell did most of the talking but all of the Defendants “strategized.”

Helms described various emails sent by Kunkle to friends where she lamented the election and did not want to turn over her office to someone who “didn’t have a clue” on running the place. He described other emails by other Defendants that were introduced in the trial. He casually mentioned that there were “complaints” about how the office was run without mentioning specific testimony or evidence.

Twenty District Clerk employees were involved in this activity, and he named each one. (Why weren’t they indicted? – LL) They were audited by HR. After the FOIA request (by The Observer), Ms. Jacobsen from the HR office asked Crigger about the request and Crigger assured Jacobsen that “nothing was going on.”

Littrell instructed her supervisors to remove the BB time from the computer and keep records on “scraps of paper” – a retreat of technology. The Defendants swiped badges for other employees.

The Blue Book program does not stop until June 2, 2010, the day of the raid by the Texas Rangers. During the raid, Littrell called Linda James, an employee and witness, and said, “the Texas Rangers are here – if you are asked, you don’t know anything.”

After all of this, no one was fired. Instead, they were promoted!!

Helms describes some of the various lesser included offenses in the charge. The misuse of a sum greater than $1500 is a State Jail Felony. The misuse of a sum greater than $20,000 is a Third Degree Felony. Oh yeah, and the misuse of less than $1500 is a Class A Misdemeanor.

Helms then used the spreadsheet prepared by the Texas Ranger to demonstrate how the amount of misused funds were calculated. It was determined that for each hour of time misused by the employees, the cost, INCLUDING BENEFITS – NOT JUST STRAIGHT TIME – was approximately $25. (I do not believe the Prosecution could have reached the Third Degree Felony level without this particular formula – LL)

He stated that the Defendants misused used approximately $26,000 of time poll sitting, block walking, and campaigning for Crigger on County time by this calculation.

Helms said regardless of whether all of the Blue Book time was actually exercised, a crime is still committed. He countered defense arguments that much of the Blue Book time was accrued before the campaign activities by showing the various calendars and ledgers that recorded the time spent on the campaign and said that more time was accrued during the campaign than before.

The Texas Ranger testified that, at the time of the raid, Littrell gave him the Blue Book time schedule when asked. He said the Defendants thought they could get away with this and described their behavior as “brazen.” Sometimes, Helms said, “if you are in an [elected] position too long, you get a feeling of entitlement.”

(I apologize for not having a summary of Robert Hinton’s (attorney for Crigger) argument – we were unable to cover that one. – LL)

Yoon Kim, attorney for Defendant Sherry Bell

Kim focused on the element of intent required by the Charge. Specific mental intent, mens rea, is required for guilt and it is not possessed by Bell. She thought she was doing the right thing. All of the witnesses were co-conspirators and therefore, could not, by law, corroborate the charges of a conspiracy.

He described the testimony of Lorri Robertson. She was indicted and signed a confession admitting guilt. Then the indictment was dismissed. Moreover, Robertson was never indicted of the same crime as the Defendants. He described Ranger Davidson’s Excel spreadsheet as not being trustworthy and much of the Blue Book time was accrued and used before the campaign.

He said, “you cannot trust the evidence to put these women in prison for their lives.”

Deric Walpole, Attorney for Rebecca Littrell

Walpole, sans the sunglasses (thank you – LL), finds the law to be on the side of the Defendants. He describes the Defendants as good people. He described his role as a defense attorney as a difficult one. Many of his clients are not good people and he has to “set fires” (literal not figurative) to divert attention from their misdeeds. But in this case, these Defendants are genuinely good people and he does not need to create any diversions for them.

He reiterated that all of these activities could have been stopped by a telephone call. And sometimes good people make mistakes. All of the PTO was done on the Defendants’ own time. The cost of this trial exceeds the alleged $26,000 in misused funds.

Walpole describes the prosecution as politically motivated and questioned why the prosecution waited until the election had ended to pursue their investigation. Because of the political situation, innuendo was used as evidence and innuendo is not evidence.

He said that Lorri Robertson confessed to nothing that the Defendants were prosecuted for.

John Hardin, Attorney for retired District Clerk, Hannah Kunkle

Kunkle was not indicted until recently – others were indicted many months before. He stated that he did not have sufficient time to prepare for trial.

Hardin related that John Roach, Sr., former Collin County District Attorney, never indicted Kunkle and Roach was a fierce prosecutor. And the fact that Roach did not prosecute Kunkle and Helms did, demonstrates the overzealousness of Helms, the prosecutor pro tem. Then, according to an observer in the court room, Hardin raised his hands above his head and started doing a “dance” toward Helms. While “dancing,” Hardin complained of the overzealous prosecution. He stopped and said “I’m so sorry, I just get upset.” No one objected to this (and I am not judging, in fact, I am impressed – Hardin’s client was acquitted, after all!)

He stated the evidence was insufficient for a conviction. He told the jurors that regardless of their verdict, he would like to get to know them and talk to them. Hardin concluded by stating, “when you leave the courthouse, on this cold day, during Christmas, you should feel good about what you did.”

John Helms, Jr., Prosecution – Rebuttal

Aaaaaaaand finally – we see the finish line. Helms stated that intent is not needed for a conviction. (huh?? – LL) He said a phone call would not have stopped the use of Blue Book time – the Defendants were fully engaged in these actions and were committed to it. There was never an internal investigation by the District Clerk’s office. The only investigation that was conducted was to find out who the whistle blowers are. Crigger’s reaction to the raid was to promote Bell and Littrell. He ended by stating that this is a third degree felony and the Defendants know it.

Hannah Kunkle was found NOT GUILTY
Patricia Crigger, Sherry Bell, and Rebecca Littrell were found GUILTY of all charges against them and accepted two years of probation each.

Lex Lawyer
Attorney at Law

Posted in Guest Opinions

WE HAVE A VERDICT IN THE DISTRICT CLERKS CORRUPTION CASE

December 6th, 2011

*BREAKING NEWS*

Bill was in the courtroom when the jury annnounced their verdict.

Patricia Crigger – GUILTY on all charges
Rebecca Littrell – GUILTY on all charges
Sherry Bell – GUILTY on her one charge
Hannah Kunkle – NOT GUILTY – Kunkle is acquitted.

Judge Nelms immediately asked Crigger to stand. He said, “you are removed from your office effective immediately. Do you understand?” Crigger replied, “Yes sir.”

Bill and I will have updates later this evening regarding evidence and testimony from Day 4 and the Closing Arguments.

Sentencing tomorrow at 9:00 A.M.

LEX LAWYER (In Limine)
Attorney at Law

 

arrest, awareness, child custody, child welfare reform, foster care abuse, cps, crime, domestic violence, false allegations, families
CPS Used My Decision to Home School I Was Charged with Truancy

One of the reasons my child was taken into foster care4 was an allegation against me of neglecting my son’s education, and not sending him to school.  This is how they managed to pull it off.

Early on in the new semester after winter break, I received a call from the school that my ex husband was calling the district trying to find out what school my son was going to.  This was a problem because my ex was under a domestic violence protective order requiring no contact with the child.  However, it did not tell the school not to disclose the name of the child’s school he was attending; and did not specify anything else on release of records.  If he came to the school and requested a copy of the file, they would have to give it to him, and/or telling my ex the name of the school might risk my child’s safety.

I decided to home school after having heard my ex threaten to “kidnap” my son, and fearing the worst I wanted to take no chances.  I kept my son home.

I used the Abeka Books Curriculum which is a very good program that had been used at my son’s private school in Florida, based on Christian teachings.  The curriculum is highly recommended, and is more than  competent to meet standards of home schooling in Texas.

Looking back

My first mistake was not withdrawing my son from school before removing him from attendance. That created the opportunity to be counted absent, and not for medical reasons.  Although the school had been made aware, especially since they first contacted me, that there was a problem, the custody issues involved in my situation came forth when my ex had begun to dispute the legal papers I had given the school. So the school decided to hold off on allowing me to withdraw my son until the “legal team” could review my legal papers at the district level.

We went back and forth for a period of time, my son missing  several weeks of school, technically, during all of this.  Although I was teaching my son at home the school district never sent a truancy officer to visit, and they never asked for documentation.  I did inform them in writing, and kept the copies of the correspondence in my files though.

After a couple of weeks, one week being spring break, there was much confusion as to my custody status and whether I was allowed to withdraw my son, since the separate custody battle had begun with a temporary restraining order placed on me, customary when suit is filed, so that the parent doesn’t remove the child from school.  The timing had just perfectly overlapped and caused enough confusion such that the school disallowed the withdrawal until they figured it all out.

Unfortunately in my case, I had unseen forces at work, being two other parties, the child’s father and grandmother, working together, to fool the outsiders, into removing my child from my care under the guise of I was not a good mother.  This opportunity came about when I removed him from school (out of fear he would be kidnapped) that they could say I didn’t care about his education and didn’t get him to school.  Of course if you compare it to her allegation that he lived with her at the same time (for the six months prior) you start to see the holes in the story, but with so many cases in the family courts who has time to truly look at the big picture when the immediate case can be stamped and moved along.

Another mishap that I didn’t realise had occured was when the school then sent a notice by certified mail to me  that they would be filing charges against me if I did not blah blah blah since I never got the letter, I don’t exactly know what it said.  The address they had on file had been my child’s grandmother’s address & not mine.   BIG MISTAKE.

I had recently moved to Texas on what was possibly meant to be a temporary basis, and was not sure where my son and I would stay for any length of time, so initially, in order to get my son back in school expeditiously, we used her address when I moved out of my brother’s house where we had been staying.

I forgot to change it or clarify anything regarding the address in the midst of the chaos at the time that caused me to fear sending my son to school in the first place; I should have done that immediately when I moved.

Again, in hindsight, that turned into another problem that played a huge role in my nightmare.  The other huge mistake of mine was relying on the deal I had worked out with the child’s grandmother, that he was picked up in the afternoons by her from school.  Normally, a grandmother picking up a child to keep until Mom or Dad get home seems perfectly acceptable; except when the grandmother has malicious intent. Although my son was brought to me once I returned home from work in the early evenings, it opened up for another opportunity for nefarious behavior on the grandmother’s part in order to secure her standing against me in court.

Since my son carpooled to school with his cousin, usually driven by my sister-in-law, I was rarely seen at the school on either morning dropoff or afternoon pickup.  This ultimately hurt my standing in court when it had been alleged that my son lived with the grandmother for six months prior to the filing of the case (a requirement by law before bringing suit against me in court for custody) in order to prove he lived with her, she could then used the schools’ familiarity with her being there with my son as proof, or evidence via witnesses and the teachers and school staff were easily fooled because they saw her with my son in the afternoons and not me.  This created ample collateral witnesses, and since CPS loves to use the public school as a place to interview and take children, it was very convenient for them as well in building a case.  I was working at a flower shop in the afternoons but my son was living with me even though the school thought he didn’t (unbeknownst to me).  I didn’t realise at the time that there was any such misunderstanding.  That’s the way they wanted it to be.

I was charged with four counts of Failure to Abide By Compulsory Attendance Laws which pretty much means pay a fine and get your child’s butt to school.

That’s when the worst doesn’t happen. In my case, it did.

So having sent my notice to the wrong address it allowed for the opportunity for the child’s grandmother to then sign for it but not tell me about it. Thus, i didn’t find out until too late, and I was charged after I missed the deadline to do whatever the letter  said – I believe it was to return my son to school in full attendance or face charges.  I missed the deadline, unknowingly, as my arch enemy and my exhusband both chuckled quietly at the sinister mail follies in their diabolical plan that was coming together beautifully.

According to school files, they had a signed certified letter  that I received notice from the school notifying me of the deadline to act in compliance or else.  It appeared that I ignored the notice after receiving it and signing for it, and thus, did not care about my child’s education.  Perfect for CPS to grab hold and run.

Prior to being adjudicated in court on the charges CPS used the fact that I had been CHARGED with truancy related accusations (not convicted when they did this, mind you…)  in order to justify removing my child from my home.

I wrote many letters to the school during this entire process.  Although my charges were ultimately dropped, the fact remained my son was taken away from me and the mere allegations allowed them one of several doors to walk through when coming up with ways to justify the removal of my son.

Remember – neglectful supervision is very elastic of a term, and almost anything can fit it.  If CPS wants a child, they can use neglectful supervision to take that child, then, if the facts don’t match the theory, change the fact.

Several years later, looking at the records online, I found the name of the charges they filed against me actually are listed as something else – Parent Contributing to Nonattendance.  Sounds a little more derogatory in my opinion.  How they can just change what the person is charged with years later on record is beyond my comprehension, but disposition states Dismissed due to bad identification.  Anyone know what that means? Email me and let me know.

So I hope this serves to at least warn you to be careful with your decision to home school and make sure you document all contact and dealings, follow the law and all procedures, and document it all.  That was if you do find yourself in a nightmare situation, you may be able to overturn it, or hopefully avoid it all together.

Good luck!

accountability, awareness, child, children, cps, education, families, family, foster care, government, home, law, legal, social workers
CPS v. Home Schoolers… FAQ on Dealing With School District

HOME SCHOOLING PARENTS v. CPS

Truancy laws are very often used by CPS so its a good idea to be familiar with what could happen.

If you are homeschooling in Texas, it might be a good idea to be familiar with what you could be up against when it comes to CPS and your child’s education.  Many home schoolers find themselves being accused of truancy when they are being schooled at home.

So before you find yourself being charged with Parental Failure to Abide by the Compulsory Attendance Laws, followed by Neglectful Supervision, here’s a FAQ sheet on DEALING WITH THE SCHOOL DISTRICT.

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This article is reprinted from the Handbook for Texas Home Schoolers published by the Texas Home School Coalition Association and may be copied only in its entirety, including this paragraph of credit and information. The Handbook for Texas Home Schoolers is a manual for home educators in Texas that includes information about where to find curricula; the laws in Texas; the how-to’s of home schooling; graduation; national, state, regional, and local organizations; and samples of letters referenced in this article. It can be purchased from the Texas Home School Coalition Association at PO Box 6747, Lubbock, TX 79493, for $20 (includes tax and shipping). For more information, contact the THSC Association at (806) 744-4441, staff@thsc.org, or www.thsc.org.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS when dealing with the school district.

  • I have decided to home school. What do I need to do? My child is enrolled in public school.

The first thing you need to do is obtain a curriculum. It is wise to find a local support group to help you set up your school.

Although you are not legally required to contact the school district, chances are very high that you will receive a visit from an attendance officer if you simply remove your child. Therefore, once you have a curriculum in hand, write the principal of the school your child attends and tell him that you are withdrawing your child to teach him at home. If the school contacts you and says that you must do more (come to the central office, fill out a form, or something else along those lines), do not go to the school. Your reply should be that if they will provide their request to you in writing, you will be glad to respond. If you receive a request of any kind, you are only required to give them a simple letter of assurance.

  • How many days per year must we have school?

The Texas Education Code requires that public schools meet 180 days per year; public school students must attend 170 days/year. This applies to public schools only. Home schools in Texas are private schools and the state of Texas does not regulate the number of days per year that private schools must be in session or the number of days a student must attend.

  • How many hours a day must we conduct school?

Home schools in Texas are private schools and are not regulated by the state. No minimum hours are required. You will probably find that your student can accomplish more work in the same period of time than public school child if for no other reason than because of not having to stand in line, wait for roll call, and the like.

  • May someone else homeschool my child?

Yes. Home schools in Texas have been determined by the Texas Supreme Court to be private schools. Private schools are not regulated by the state of Texas. There are no requirements such as teacher certification or curriculum approval. The ruling of the Leeper case states that a parent “or one standing in parental authority” may educate a child. However, if a person is teaching more than three students outside her family, she may encounter problems with local zoning ordinances, and the state may require that she be licensed for childcare.

  • May my child participate in classes at the public school?

That is a local school decision. It is possible for a public school to allow this, but it is not likely at this time. The rules are somewhat different for special needs students; check with your local district.

  • May my child participate in extracurricular activities at the public school?

At this time, a local public school could allow your child to play in the band or other such activities; however, he would not be able to take part in events sponsored by the University Interscholastic League (UIL) such as athletic competitions or band and choir contests.

  • What is the compulsory school age requirement?

A child who is age six as of September 1 of the current school year must be enrolled in school until his eighteenth birthday, unless he has graduated. 16. What about testing my child? Although the state of Texas does not require testing of private school students, many home school parents do give their children annual tests using nationally-normed achievement tests.

  • May my child go out in public during the day? What if someone questions him about why he is not in school?

Home schools in Texas are private schools. Home school parents are law-abiding citizens and should not feel the need to hide their children during the day. If someone asks you or your child why he is not in school, you should respond that you home educate and that you have already accomplished your work for the day or that you are on a school field trip. You should be aware that if your children are seen during public school hours you will generate questions. If your child is in public without you and your city has a daytime curfew, you could encounter difficulties.

  • What happens if my child wants to enter or re-enter public school?

School districts set the requirements for enrollment in their schools. This is a local decision–not one made by the state of Texas. You should check with the local school district concerning its policy regarding accepting unaccredited private school students.

  • What is required for graduation?

Home schools in Texas are private schools and not regulated by the state; therefore, just as with other private schools, home schools set their own graduation standards. There is no minimum age requirement for graduation.

  • How can my child receive a diploma?

When a student meets the requirements set by his school for graduation (see question #19), he may receive a diploma. Diplomas may be ordered from the Texas Home School Coalition Association and other sources.

  • What if I work?

Remember that home schools are private schools and there is no requirement for hours or the time when education must take place. The only requirement is that a written curriculum covering the basic areas (see question #3) must be pursued in a bona fide (not a sham) manner. Consequently, one could work and teach his child as well. While this would be difficult and take some discipline, it is certainly possible and legal.

  • Is there a recurring theme here?

The answer is “yes”! Home schools in Texas are private schools. Private schools in Texas are not regulated. Therefore, home schools in Texas are not regulated. Keep this thought central in your mind when dealing with those who want to regulate or restrict your freedom to teach your children.

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cps
Computer crash hinders Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid fraud case

 Anyone else smell a rat?

Imagine that –

 How in the world could an office so important as the Attorney General’s NOT keep backup?  The work product has to be out there somewhere I’m sure – its not a single copy kinda documentation when you’re dealing with issues such as these!

Or maybe i’m wrong…Either way its horrible news… unless you’re a defendant of course.

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Computer crash hinders Texas Attorney General’s Medicaid fraud case

07:00 AM CDT on Thursday, October 23, 2008

By EMILY RAMSHAW and ROBERT T. GARRETT / The Dallas Morning News
eramshaw@dallasnews.com rtgarrett@dallasnews.com

 

AUSTIN – A massive computer crash that destroyed hundreds of the state attorney general’s confidential documents may prevent scores of Medicaid fraud prosecutions and has revealed serious problems with a newly expanded state outsourcing of computer services.

As much as 50 percent of the Tyler Medicaid fraud division’s files were destroyed in July when a server being repaired by a state vendor wouldn’t restart. The scope of the damage is in dispute.

In an apparent oversight, the documents lost were not backed up – meaning that evidence crucial to convicting dishonest health-care providers who ripped off the state’s health insurance program for the poor may never be recovered. E-mails and other records obtained by The Dallas Morning News indicate some Tyler investigators lost up to 90 percent of their open case files.

“In spite of earlier assurances, the destruction of critical data has, in fact, occurred,” First Assistant Attorney General Kent Sullivan wrote Monday in an e-mail to Brian Rawson, chief of the Department of Information Resources. Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office “cannot afford to risk a reoccurrence of this event.”

Lost: 8 months of work

In all, 81 criminal cases and eight months of work in the attorney general’s 13-person Tyler Medicaid fraud office were completely lost, according to an attorney general’s report on the security breach – records that are being painstakingly recovered by the vendor.

IBM, which leads a vendor group selected by the information resources department in the $863 million, seven-year outsourcing deal, said it still is investigating the matter.

“We do take this incident seriously, and we’re taking appropriate steps to ensure that it doesn’t occur again,” company spokesman Jeff Tieszen said.

Mr. Tieszen said IBM-hired data recovery specialists have reassembled 24 of 27 lost gigabytes of information – 88 percent of the lost data.

State officials said that they couldn’t confirm that figure and that their latest estimates remain at 50 percent.

The Medicaid fraud data loss is the worst problem to surface in the first 18 months of the state’s deal with the IBM-led group – and further blemishes a privatization push throughout state government that grew rapidly after Republicans gained control of the Legislature six years ago.

In April 2007, Mr. Abbott’s office was forced to switch to the outsourced system. It gave “Team for Texas,” the vendor group, lead responsibility for the attorney general’s information technology system, including its servers and backup tapes.

The change was supposed to provide better service and save money. But early this year, the attorney general’s office and the IBM-led group had a series of communications breakdowns over whether data was actually being backed up.

In a May e-mail, Sean Peterson, Mr. Abbott’s director of network operations, appeared to have a premonition, raising doubts about whether remote office servers were being properly maintained. He also asked for a list of all the backups that had failed in the last three weeks.

“I am concerned that these are not being backed up properly,” he wrote.

Lag in reporting

On July 21, the Tyler server wouldn’t restart. Alarms weren’t raised immediately; memos in the attorney general’s office say the vendor didn’t notify Mr. Abbott’s office of the problem until 10 p.m. on July 22.

But as initial efforts to retrieve the records failed – and attorney general’s office employees realized that IBM had “not routinely backed up the server as required by contract” – memos show that both the state and the contractor realized the gravity of the situation.

By late July, IBM had to call in a special forensics team from California to try to recover documents. And the data losses were so severe that employees in Mr. Abbott’s office questioned in e-mails to each other whether they should resign for failing to properly oversee IBM, according to records obtained by The News.

Shortly after the Tyler office’s data loss, documents indicate the attorney general’s office determined that servers for three other field offices were not being backed up, either.

In Monday’s e-mail, Mr. Sullivan wrote that he needed a guarantee “that no state agency will again be faced with the situation of having data destroyed and functionally irretrievable.”

There have been other highly publicized problems with big outsourcing pushes by the Health and Human Services Commission – one that created privately run call centers and maintained software to support eligibility screening for public assistance, and another that privatized payroll and hiring at 12 social services agencies.

In 2005, the Legislature and Gov. Rick Perry, building on an earlier outsourcing of state computer services and data backups, approved a measure forcing at least 15 state agencies to join a dozen that already were using an earlier vendor, Northrop Grumman Corp.

A new, expanded outsourcing deal with Team for Texas – the current provider – was struck in November 2006 and took effect in April 2007.

The deal, expected to save the state $153 million by 2013, has attracted little public attention because even though more than 500 state employees lost their jobs, about 40 percent found other state positions and the rest were guaranteed spots with IBM or its subcontractors Unisys, Xerox and Pitney Bowes.

In July, though, state Auditor John Keel criticized the information department for not riding herd on major state agencies. Though agencies were supposed to hand over to IBM their most knowledgeable and experienced computer technicians, many kept those workers by using them to fill other vacancies, Mr. Keel’s audit said.