December 20, 2014

Elyria
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Facing probe, Stepping Stone employee quits

ELYRIA — A Lorain County Juvenile Court child care worker assigned to the Stepping Stone Residential Center resigned in January after being confronted by a supervisor about drug allegations leveled against him.

Juvenile Court Administrator Jody Barilla said a child being held at the Lorain County Detention Home brought the allegations to Residential Services Director Dave Lucey on Jan. 27.

Lucey contacted the Lorain County Drug Task Force to request an investigation and went to see the worker, who wasn’t on duty, the next day, Barilla said. The employee resigned during that Jan. 28 meeting at his home.

The Chronicle-Telegram typically does not identify uncharged suspects by name.

Barilla said because of licensing issues with the state, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services was notified of the investigation as well.

“The facility notified us on Jan. 30 that an employee was under investigation for drug activity and resigned,” said Ben Johnson, a spokesman for the state agency. “We were not given any information beyond that.”

Barilla also said that the parents of the juveniles who were being held at Stepping Stone were informed of the issue.

“What I said to them was there have been allegations of drug activity regarding one of our employees and that he was no longer employed by the court,” Barilla said.

She said she didn’t provide details of the allegations to the parents and declined to do so this week.

“If there’s an ongoing investigation, I also don’t want to jeopardize that investigation,” Barilla said.

Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Dennis Cavanaugh, commander of the Drug Task Force, confirmed that there is an ongoing investigation into the former worker.

“There’s been some events brought to our attention and we’re looking into it, and that investigation is continuing,” he said.

The Juvenile Court doesn’t have any paperwork detailing the allegations against the former employee.

Juvenile Court Administrative Judge Debra Boros said that because of the speed with which court workers took action to deal with the situation, the normal processes that would have generated such documents never kicked in.

She said if the worker hadn’t resigned, he would have been placed on leave and scheduled for a disciplinary hearing through written notification. But the resignation eliminated the need for those steps, she said.

“The investigative report ultimately will serve as our documentation,” she said.

Boros said court workers dealt with the issue quickly to protect the juveniles at Stepping Stone and have handed the matter to a third party for an independent investigation.

“I feel that we did what we needed to do,” she said.

Boros and Barilla said courts staff performed an initial review of their policies and procedures and found no gaps that need to be closed, but once they receive the final report they will take another look.

The former employee was hired as a relief worker in September 2012 and became a full-time employee in January 2013, according to his personnel file.

While employed, he was reprimanded twice, most recently in June 2013 for an incident in which a Stepping Stone resident left without permission and the worker allowed another resident to take some of the missing resident’s shoes and possibly other items.

The first reprimand, dated March 2013, dealt with an incident in which residents took his personal cell phone and sent a text message.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.